Over a decade after discovering the markers of a large diamond deposit, the Renard mining project is closer to realization. The Quebec ministry of natural resources issued Stornoway Diamond Corporation a 20-year mining lease for the project last week.

Stornoway predicts the mine – to be built about 250 kilometres from Mistissini and 350 kilometres from Chibougamau – will have an 11-year life. The 1400-metre depth of the shaft also promises, according to Stornoway, to maximize the chances of finding additional materials.

Renard was originally a joint venture between Quebec’s mining department and Ashton Diamonds. Stornoway acquired Ashton and its 50% of the project in 2007, and purchased the remainder from Quebec last year in exchange for 37% ownership.

The lease represented one of the last remaining hurdles in attaining approval for the project.

The company expects to receive a certificate of authorization from the ministry of environment this year, giving full approval to begin construction. The other delay is more tangible: the road leading to the mine is less than half finished, about 100 kms of its 240-kilometre route.

The project’s on-schedule approval should ease shareholder worries about Stornoway’s finances. The initial costs of the project are predicted to be more than $800 million. The company’s market value is less than 10% of this, forcing them to obtain debt-financing contracts with several banks. The company is confident the operating margin of the mine will make up for the sizable investment.