Here are two more mining companies that are operating in Eeyou Istchee

Stornoway Diamond Corp.
Vancouver, BC-based Stornoway Diamond Corp. is set to open Quebec’s first diamond mine with its flagship project, the Renard development. The firm recently concluded an agreement with Scotiabank to inject $15 million to kick-start the project, and the first gems will be ready to ship by 2015 if all goes to plan.

A feasibility study conducted by the company released late last year estimated that the Otish Mountains contained about $4 billion worth of diamonds. Cooperation between Stornoway and the Quebec government on building the $330 million extension of Highway 167 was one of the first steps towards making Premier Jean Charest’s Plan Nord a reality.

The company has two further diamond exploration projects within the boundaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) jurisdiction: Aeon and Consorem, both north of the Renard development. The Aeon claim, owned outright by Stornoway, was made in April 2011 and granted by the Quebec government three months later. Consorem is a joint venture between Stornoway, Aurizon Mines of Vancouver, Quebec City-based Mines Virginia and SOQUEM, a provincially owned mining company. They have projects further afield, both in northern Canada and the African country of Botswana.

The brainchild of pioneering woman entrepreneur and geologist Eira Thomas, Stornoway was the result of a merger 10 years ago. It helped turn Canada into the world’s sixth biggest diamond producer according to a joint report by mining giants De Beers, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Canadian diamonds have been highly sought after by conscientious consumers looking for an alternative to conflict diamonds, gems of dubious provenance whose profits have been used to fuel dictatorships and wars. Stornoway itself has a “whistleblower policy” obliging any employee of the company to report shady dealings. They have also set aside funds for the revitalization of the area after the diamond deposits are exhausted, estimated to be between 2035 and 2040.

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By Shaun Malley

Wemindji Exploration Inc.
Wemindji Exploration Inc. has big plans, both for mining exploration and for the company’s future.

Founded in 2000, during a staking rush for diamonds, the company is 100% Cree-owned, belonging to the Tawich Development Corporation on behalf of the Cree Nation of Wemindji.

“The company was created first to encourage locals to have their own exploration projects,” said general manager Mary-Carmen Vera. “In 2000, there were companies in the area exploring for diamonds, and the purpose of Wemindji Explorations was for the people of Wemindji to be involved – either in joint ventures with companies there, or just to get people working in the field.”

Over the past 12 years, interest in diamonds has dissipated and companies looking for diamonds have left. However, as the interest in gold has risen along with its selling price, Wemdindji Exploration has shifted its focus to exploring for gold and other valuable metals.

Working in concert with Quebec City-based Virginia Mines, which discovered the Éléonore gold deposits and sold them to Goldcorp for the development of the Éléonore Mine, Wemindji Exploration is accelerating the search for gold in the area.

“The idea is that if we find a good prospect, we’ll have that project go public,” Vera said. “If we create a public company that will be listed along with other companies in the mining industry, that will make us the first 100% Cree-owned exploration company in history to be publicly listed.”

Supported by the Cree Mineral Exploration Board, Wemindji Exploration is eager to expand explorations throughout the Cree territory.

“We’re ready to work together with other communities that want to open exploration companies,” said Vera. “It’s very positive that Crees are involved in the mineral exploration industry. There’s a lot of opportunity in the territory. It’s true, there are other companies working there too – we cannot tell them to go away, because they’re there. The good thing is that the Crees are getting involved and they’re going to work in this industry, in the best way for their people.”

Vera recognizes that the first steps will involve a great deal of work, but she is ultimately optimistic.

“For now,” she said, “we have Wemindji, but there are probably going to be new companies created in other communities. In the long term, as more and more communities have companies, then we will be able to have joint ventures between companies that are entirely within the Cree Nation. The process is going to be a positive development for the whole Nation. It’s a challenge, but if we succeed, it’s going to be a Cree success.”

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by Shaun Malley