TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Eighteen years in the making, Stornoway Diamond Corp on Thursday announced that it had made a formal decision to build the Renard diamond project, in Quebec, after closing of the project's comprehensive C$946-million financing package on Tuesday.
Stornoway did not wait for the other shoe to drop and on Thursday also ceremoniously turned the first sod at the project site, in the presence of Quebec premier Philippe Couillard and other dignitaries and representatives.
The TSX-listed firm, which is building Quebec’s only precious-gem mine, said project construction was fully mobilised and it expected to declare commercial production on schedule during the second quarter of 2017, based on first plant commissioning in late 2016.
“The formal decision to proceed to construction and production at Renard, announced today at a ground breaking ceremony in the presence of Premier Coulillard and our partners in the communities of Mistissini, Chibougamau and Chapais, represents the most significant milestone yet in the long journey to bring Quebec's first diamonds to market.
“The Renard diamond project is now fully permitted, financed and ready to build. This is a moment to acknowledge the immense effort of all those that have been involved over the last 18 years in the exploration, discovery, assessment, design and financing of Renard, and to look forward to the significant undertakings of mine construction, commissioning and successful operation that lie ahead,” president and CEO Matt Manson said.
The Renard diamond project is located about 250 km north of the Cree community of Mistissini and 350 km north of Chibougamau, in the James Bay region of north-central Quebec.
The project hosts probable mineral reserves, as defined under National Instrument 43-101, at 17.9-million carats. Total indicated mineral resources, inclusive of the mineral reserve, are at 27.1-million carats, with a further 16.9-million carats classified as inferred mineral resources, and 25.7-million carats to 47.8-million carats classified as no-resource exploration upside. All kimberlites remain open at depth.
The November 2011 feasibility study included ramp and shaft access to the Renard underground mine. According to the optimisation study released in January 2013, shaft sinking would be deferred until later in the mine life and access to the underground mine would be through a ramp only.
The shaft would be developed to a depth of 610 m, sufficient to extract all mineral reserves and the inferred mineral resources. It would also be enlarged to accommodate the planned production rate of 6 000 t/d of ore. Ore would be hauled to surface by 60 t trucks, with ramp ventilation capacity and surface maintenance facilities expanded to accommodate the increased fleet. Plant capacity remains at 6 000 t/d, expandable to 7 000 t/d. Power requirements were expected to total 12.2 MW during operations and to be provided through on-site diesel power generation.
According to the optimisation study, diamond production in years one and two would be derived predominantly from the Renard 2/3 openpit. Diamond production from the underground mine would start during year two. As indicated in the feasibility study, underground ore would be mined, with blast-hole shrinkage on the 250 m, 430 m and 610 m development levels, with waste backfill from surface. The optimisation study contained a refined draw-point design and a mining sequence incorporating a panel-retreat method to better ensure geomechanical stability and mitigate the unexpected onset of natural caving.
As a result of design changes to the project, preproduction capital costs were estimated at C$752-million, a reduction of C$50-million from the previous estimate.
As a result of agreements between Stornoway and the Québec Ministère des Transports, the Ministère des Ressources Naturelles and the Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie (MFE) regarding the completion of the Route 167 extension and the Renard mine road, as well as a revised financing agreement between Stornoway and the MFE, the new project development schedule assumed first road access to the project site by the fourth quarter of 2013, rather than July 2013, as stated previously.
Plant commissioning was now scheduled to begin in December 2015, with commercial production set for June 2016, instead of July 2015 and January 2016, as stated previously.
Stornoway had received a positive environmental assessment decision for the Renard project from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The project had received all of the major Quebec and federal government authorisations required to start construction.