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Alberta and two First Nations make deal for proposed oilsands mine

Last Updated Feb 23, 2020 at 5:18 pm MST

The corporate logo of Teck Resources Limited is shown. The Alberta government has struck deals with two northern Alberta First Nations over a proposed open-pit oilsands mine that's awaiting Ottawa's approval. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

The Alberta government has struck deals with two First Nations in the region over Teck’s proposed open-pit Frontier mine.

The Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations previously reached deals with Teck Resources Ltd. for the project.

However, both were in negotiations with the province over environmental and cultural concerns.

A public disagreement between Indigenous Relations Minister, Rick Wilson, and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in early February tested negotiations.

Wilson said he worried the public spat with Chief Adam, who called for a share of the tax revenue from resource projects, could give Ottawa reason to reject Teck’s proposal.

On Feb. 23, 2020, Alberta announced the new deal would address bison and caribou habitats and protect Wood Buffalo National Park.

Chief Adam says in a news release he’s now confident the project is a net benefit to his community.

“After many productive discussions, the Alberta government has responded to our concerns with a comprehensive and meaningful package of action items.”

14 First Nations and Métis communities supported Frontier mine and signed participation agreements.

In a statement, Mikisew Cree Chief Archie Waquan called work by Teck and Alberta to resolve their concerns “groundbreaking.”

He added Canada needs to do more but noted his First Nation’s involvement in Canada’s largest off-grid solar project.

Jason Nixon, Alberta’s Environment Minister, thanked Chiefs Adam and Waquan for demonstrating strong leadership.

He added their vision of how resource development can happen with Indigenous culture is invaluable.

“I am proud of what our partners, including Teck, Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan, have achieved with this agreement. It is more important than ever to demonstrate that real and meaningful reconciliation can be advanced by ensuring our First Nations are real partners in prosperity.”

He called for the federal government to approve the $20.6-billion project adding it played by the rules.

The federal cabinet must decide on Teck’s Frontier mine by the end of the month.

Teck discussions

Mayor Don Scott and Councillors, MLA Laila Goodridge, and Economic Development Corporation CEO Kevin Weidlich were part of a delegation visiting Ottawa to speak about Teck’s proposal.

If approved, construction of the mine 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray would create 7,000 and another 2,500 operating jobs over its lifespan.

Mayor Don Scott said rejecting the mine would send a dangerous message.

Opponents called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to reject Teck pointing to its possible effects on the environment and neighbouring communities.

However, Teck responded it would commit to a low-carbon economy as lower carbon oil from Frontier would replace higher carbon sources.

The shift would contribute to reducing global emissions and make them “carbon neutral” by 2050.

This article contains excerpts from Rob Drinkwater of The Canadian Press, first published Feb. 23, 2020.