Quebec shows tougher approach toward mining sector with access road deal – The Canadian Press/CTV News (November 15, 2012)

QUEBEC — Quebec’s new government is living up to its pledge to take a tougher stance with mining companies after offloading some responsibility for the construction of a controversial access road.

Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau announced Thursday that Quebec has renegotiated a deal that will see Stornoway Diamond Corp. (TSX:SWY) assume a bigger share of the costs to build a route to its proposed mine.

Marceau expects the agreement on the 240-kilometre highway extension to the Renard diamond mine site will save Quebec taxpayers at least $124 million. “We’re not going to build gold-plated roads with huge cost overruns,” Marceau told a new conference.

“The signal we’re sending to mining companies is that we’re ready to make deals with you, but the terms must be reasonable for Quebec taxpayers.”

PQ officials had expressed concern that costs for the Route 167 project had exploded beyond the estimated budget of $260 million in 2009. By August, the price tag had soared to $472 million.

The new deal will drop the maximum cost down to $304 million, the government insists. The PQ has criticized the previous Liberal government’s northern-development plan — known as the Plan Nord — for being too generous to the mining sector.

Quebec’s natural resources minister indicated that the Stornoway deal is a sign of things to come under this fledgling PQ government.

“What we’re doing here, with the new Stornoway contract, is really the new approach for northern development,” said Martine Ouellet, who joined Marceau at the news conference.

The Renard project, 350 kilometres north of Chibougamau, is expected to create about 450 jobs in the region. It will be Quebec’s first diamond mine.

Under the new deal, a portion of the gravel road will now be a more modest, single-lane route. Its completion will be assumed by Stornoway instead of the Quebec government.

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