Anticosti: Quebec and private firm don't have to give Petrolia $13 million

MONTREAL – The Quebec government and a private firm don’t have to give nearly $13 million to Petrolia Inc. in their dispute over exploratory oil and gas drilling on Anticosti Island, a judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court Justice Martin Castonguay did state, however, that Ressources Quebec, a subsidiary of Investissement Quebec, and Saint-Aubin must contribute money until next May to enable Petrolia to maintain certain jobs on Anticosti Island.

That amount was not made public.

Petrolia (TSX-V:PEA) and Corridor Resources yielded their exploration permits for Anticosti Island in 2014 in exchange for promised investment. That deal was reached under the previous Parti Quebecois government.

Petrolia went to court earlier this month to get the $13 million to ensure exploratory work on three wells would begin as scheduled this summer.

The work is aimed at determining the hydrocarbon potential, in terms of quality and volume, on Anticosti, which is off eastern Quebec.

“We are very happy because the judge ruled partly in our favour by recognizing there was an impasse,” said Petrolia president Alexandre Gagnon.

Petrolia’s court action was aimed at trying to block an attempt to put off the work until 2017, saying that could result in an unspecified number of job losses and jeopardize the future of the project.

Castonguay called Petrolia’s position “feeble.”

“The drilling expected in 2016 was originally set for 2015,” Castonguay said. “If there was no great urgency between 2015 and 2016, how can there be any now?”

A senior Investissement Quebec executive said the Anticosti project is not in jeopardy.

“This dossier is evolving on a daily basis,” said Iya Toure, who is responsible for Ressources Quebec. “The various parties must get together to decide what they are going to do without feeling the pressure of the last few weeks.”

The entire project has become a hot political potato, with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard increasingly distancing himself from the project ever since attending an international climate conference in Paris last December.

He has repeatedly stated the deal was reached when the PQ was in power, has expressed concerns about environmental risks and has questioned the project’s economic viability.