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A rough diamond from the Renard

A rough diamond from the Renard, the first operating mine in the Canadian province of Québec.
(Photo courtesy of the Stornoway Corporation)


While most of Canada’s known diamond deposits are located in the vast Northwest Territories, the Renard mine is the only functioning facility in the mainly French-speaking province of Québec, in the northeast of the country.

Wholly-owned by the Stornoway Corporation, the mine is situated in the James Bay region of north-central Québec. Construction began at the site in July 2014, following the completion of an almost $770 million project financing package, the largest ever for a publicly listed diamond company.

Now in commercial production, it is  expected to produce an average of 1.6 million carats per year over an initial 14-year mine life, representing approximately 1 percent of global supply. Commercial production began at the site on January 1, 2017.

The first year was tough, though, with the company recording a loss of $88.8 million in 2017, in part of because of poor weather conditions at the mining site, where temperatures  regularly dip below minus 20 degrees centigrade during the frigid winter months. Furthermore, unexpected geological conditions resulted in lower-than forecast grades of ore being recovered.

Mining crews operating the open pit of Renard. (Photo courtesy of the Stornoway Corporation)

The Renard mine, during the frigid months of the Canadian winter. (Photo courtesy of the Stornoway Corporation)

But things now appear to be looking up. The first quarter of 2018 saw a strong performance for Stornoway in sales and pricing, with successively higher prices at each of three sales held by the company,  reflecting an improved size and quality mix, as a well as a generally strong start to the year for the diamond market.

According to the company, the average price per carat of rough diamonds sold equaled  $112, which while still below its target of between $125 and $165 per carat, was significantly higher that than the $85 per carat averaged in 2017.

The Renard mine is also beginning to rack up sales of unusually large diamonds. These included a 37-carat, type IIa, D-color, internally flawless rough stone, which was sold for  $1.3 million, or $36,000 per carat, which was the  highest price ever received for a rough diamond from the Renard mine.

Furthermore, toward the end of the quarter, Stornoway reported the discovery of a  189-carat rough diamond at Renard. While relatively low in quality, it is still one of the largest diamonds ever mined in Canada.