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Canada First Nation makes history with LNG terminal vote

05 April 2017

In late March, citizens of the 750-strong Huu-ay-aht First Nation in western British Columbia voted in favour of a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project on Vancouver Island. This represents a major step in the development of the proposed Sarita LNG facility, which would source natural gas from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta via existing and new pipelines.

The Sarita Bay site on Vancouver Island - Image: Steelhead LNG
The Sarita Bay site on Vancouver Island - Image: Steelhead LNG

Project developer Steelhead LNG of Vancouver sought early involvement of the First Nation when it looked into the construction of a proposed liquefaction and export facility located on Huu-ay-aht-owned land on Sarita Bay near the Vancouver Island community of Bamfield.

Key to the acceptance of the project by the community has been the idea of co-management between the partners. The project will have a six-person oversight board that will have three seats saved for Huu-ay-aht representatives. The First Nation will also get a seat on Steelhead's corporate board.

"An incredible opportunity is on our doorstep and we want to pursue that opportunity," said Huu-ay-aht Senior Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis. "We're seizing it…to make things better for the Huu-ay-aht people."

According to the chief councillor, the Huu-ay-aht are not facing as severe an unemployment problem as some First Nations, but at the press conference to announce the deal, he said there was a wide gap between the prosperity in his community and that in the rest of Canada and they would be looking to take an initial 15% of the jobs created on the project.

Steelhead LNG CEO Nigel Kuzemko said Canada's National Energy Board has granted the company four licenses to export up to 24 million tonnes of LNG per annum for 25 years. The main target market is Asia, and the next stage will be to plan the infrastructure required to collect natural gas from across Western Canada and pipe it to Sarita Bay.

Assuming the final investment decision is taken in 2019 or 2020, the facility could begin exporting in 2024.

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