There have been various minerals discovered and mined in Eeyou Istchee over the years and the Nation has now learned that diamonds could be added to the list after a recent announcement that Stornoway Diamond Corp. is trying to get a road built to access an area known as the Foxtrot Property.
The mine promises “200 to 300 jobs over 10 to 15 years,” according to President Matt Manson.
Stornoway has partnered with the Quebec government’s mining development agency, SOQUEM, and the results from a bulk sample program in 2007 proved promising, but it is still too early to put concrete numbers on jobs and the life expectancy of the mine.
“We’re just finishing the pre-feasibility study,” said Manson. “It will give us the first reasonably reliable estimate of the size of the resource and the cost parameters of the project and it will also give an indication of schedule.”
Stornoway representatives are calling the Renard diamond project a “moderate-sized resource,” and they figure it could be in operation in four to five years.
At a recent seminar on mining in Montreal, CEO Eira Thomas told the crowd that it was “not a question of if this road gets built. It’s when.”
“We’re working with the company because it’s only in the exploration stage right now,” said Mistissini Chief John Longchap
“The environmental impact statement will have to consider employment and benefits for the Crees, but also environmental issues and cultural issues. If they address those issues then the province will issue a permit and we’ll sit down to negotiate.”
The project might be a boost for Mistissini’s economy if enough Crees are hired on, but the road is also seen as a way to get better access for tourists to the Albanel-Temiscamie-Otish Park, a first of its kind to promote the boreal forest.
“It’s also about better access for the tallyman,” said Longchap.
The impact the mine will have on the land and the Cree way of life as well as who will pay the cost of the road has yet to be worked out, but a pre-feasibility study is due out as early as April 21 that will give more weight behind the economic numbers.
On that date, Longchap will again meet with the company to further discuss the project.
One of the proposals for funding the building of a highway includes a pay-per-use system. It would have to be built over bodies of water, including the Eastmain River, which also adds to the enormous cost, which has not been calculated yet.
A $900,000 feasibility study was ordered by a committee made up of Crees and MBJ mayors to gauge the cost of a road to the park. Quebec threw in $300,000 and the rest was earned through fundraising efforts.
Stornoway has also proposed a second stage of the road, running north of the Foxtrot Property to the Transtaiga highway that also needs to be studied.
Although continuing on with the project without a road is a possibility, Stornoway representatives say they would not want to go that route.
“We’re strongly dependant upon the construction of a road,” said Manson. “We’re very optimistic we’ll be able to build one and if we can’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The mine would have to undergo stringent scrutiny by the two Cree-Quebec boards of COMEV, which would examine and evaluate if the project is viable and feasible, and COMEX, which takes a look at environmental impacts as well as the impact on game, Cree way of life and any potential dangers associated with mining that may or may not be offset by economic gain.
“The tallyman will have a lot of bearing on whether they get a permit or not,” said Longchap.
“We relate any future potential projects to the Troilus experience,” he said, of the open-pit gold mine that opened in 1995 and is expected to last until 2009. “As long as it’s not too destructive to the land it might be all right, but we haven’t made a decision to support it or not.”
Longchap also mentioned the possibility of the Troilus workers moving over to the Renard diamond mine if all goes well.
“Right now we’re taking a wait and see approach, but if it doesn’t have a negative impact on the tallyman and the traplines, it might be good for Mistissini,” said Longchap.