A Vancouver Island First Nation has reached a deal for a proposed floating liquefied natural gas facility in the Saanich Inlet that could process up to six-million tonnes of the product per year.
The Malahat Nation announced the project in conjunction with representatives from Steelhead LNG, the Vancouver-based energy company that will build and operate the plant, at a news conference Thursday morning.
The floating plant would be moored to the shoreline of the Malahat-owned land formerly known as Bramberton, and would be expected to generate revenue for 30 years, according to Steelhead.
Up to 200 “high-paying long-term positions” would be created as a result once the facility is up and running, Steelhead said in a news release.
Malahat’s acting chief Tommy Harry said the deal is a result of a push from the 319-member First Nation to explore new economic opportunities after recently purchasing a 525-hectare parcel of industrial-zoned land – the former site of a cement manufacturing facility.
The land is currently being used as a rock quarry.
“This proposed LNG project with Steelhead represents another step forward,” Harry said. “It is also an indication that our Nation is open for business and that we welcome the chance to explore opportunities with those who respect our lands, social and cultural values, and who are prepared to work with us in a truly strategic manner.”
The facility would likely require the construction of a pipeline from the B.C. mainland to supply the natural gas that would then be liquefied and loaded onto tankers, according to Steelhead.
A hopeful Green Party of Canada MP who formerly served as Chief of the Quatsino First Nation said while she respected the Malahat Nation’s right to self-governance, the announcement would likely be “disappointing” to residents in the riding of Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
“There are other ways of pursuing economic development,” said Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi. “The sentiment out there is no increased tankers and I think there’s certainly more opposition than those that are in favour.”
Hunt-Jinnouchi, who also once served as director of the Office of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Victoria, said there were “lots of concerns” associated with an LNG plant in the Saanich Inlet.
“Too risky, potentially disastrous,” she said. “I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to defend our coastlines. Water security is one of the most critical issues of the day.”
The proposed project will need to undergo thorough environmental assessments, and members of the Malahat Nation would need to be consulted before construction begins.
With files from CFAX 1040