Osisko bid leaves Quebec with much to lose – by Sophie Coustineau (Globe and Mail – January 15, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

MONTREAL — Like a big rock that fell in a puddle of grimy slush, Goldcorp Inc.’s takeover offer for Osisko Mining Corp. has splashed Quebec Inc. in the face.

With the prospective loss of head office jobs and consultant work, hostile takeovers are never greeted like a cup of warm cocoa. But there is even more unease this time around.

Osisko is more than your regular mid-tier producer. It is Quebec’s biggest gold producer and the province’s best-known mining company – for some good and not so good reasons.

Its main gig is the Canadian Malartic gold mine, the country’s biggest open-pit mine that was dug smack in the middle of a small town in the northwestern Quebec region of Abitibi. The designing of this mine gave a new meaning to the “not in my backyard” knee-jerk reaction.

Some 200 homeowners were expropriated, some willingly, some not, and relocated to the northern part of Malartic even before the Quebec government completed its public consultations on the mine.

Long before Neil Young waged his concert war against Alberta’s oil sands, Quebec singer and songwriter Richard Desjardins decried the mine in a scathing documentary called Trou Story (a play on the French word for hole).

But after a rocky start, Osisko largely rebuilt its corporate image. For instance, in 2011, the company voluntarily started setting aside the more than $44-million that will be required to restore the Malartic mine. It didn’t wait for the Quebec government to pass a stricter law on financial guarantees, as the province is now facing a staggering $1.25-billion bill for the cleanup of its abandoned mines.

Even if Osisko employs close to 600 workers in a town of 3,500, the mine’s social acceptance remains fragile. For instance, the noise from the mining operations has led to tense negotiations on the duration and time of the blasts.

For many, nonetheless, better the devil you know than the one from Vancouver.

“There are going to be talks for sure, and we want to be a part of them,” Malartic Mayor Martin Ferron said in a Radio-Canada interview. Even the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal expressed its concerns. Alluding to the “half a billion dollars worth of contracts” given out by Osisko to Quebec companies, a number of which are based in Montreal, the board’s chief executive officer, Michel Leblanc, noted that the company’s benefits “far outweigh the investments made by foreign companies who operate this type of deposit in Quebec.”

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