The agreement builds upon longstanding ties between the Mikisew Cree First Nation and Syncrude first formed in the 1970s, when band members were able to begin working for the oil sands company as part of the Fort Chipewyan Rotational Program.
As a result, the Mikisew Cree First Nation has withdrawn as an intervener from the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) hearing on Syncrude’s Mildred Lake Extension (MLX) project that began Jan. 22.
“This new partnership with Syncrude builds on the successes that we have had with Syncrude for more than 40 years and ensures we both share in the benefits of the this new mine extension,” says Chief Archie Waquan. “It also ensures our members will have access to long term, stable employment opportunities that support Mikisew families”
“Reaching an agreement with the First Nation with the largest membership in the region is a tremendous accomplishment,” says Syncrude Managing Director Doreen Cole.
“This agreement reflects our philosophy that Indigenous communities should share in the opportunities that come from developing the oil sands,” says Cole. "This agreement ratifies our goal of shared success for Syncrude and the Mikisew Cree while responsibly developing the oil sands.”
“Entities that are wholly and majority owned by the Mikisew Cree have substantially grown their presence at Syncrude,” Cole adds. “A key example is their joint venture with Guthrie Mechanical, Mikisew Guthrie Limited Partnership, which has become an integral part of Syncrude onsite operations. In addition, many Syncrude employees are members of the First Nation."
The MLX project will maintain Syncrude’s current level of jobs, translating into ongoing jobs, economic activity and community benefits beyond the mid-2020s, when the current supply in the Syncrude North Mine will run out.
Syncrude also contributed $2.3 million to help establish the Birch River Wildland Provincial Park, which is a significant area within the Mikisew Cree’s traditional territory. As a result, the Alberta government granted a land disturbance offset to Syncrude for future mining development. The oil sands operator intends to use some of those offsets for MLX.
In addition, Syncrude acknowledges the recent efforts of the MCFN and others to add to this conservation area through the Biodiversity Stewardship Area.
“Syncrude is very proud of the MLX project," says Cole. "We have been consulting MCFN for many years and actively addressing the concerns the community has raised throughout the consultation process."
Syncrude also reached agreements ahead of the AER’s MLX hearing with the Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation as well as Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935 and Fort McKay Métis Local 63.
The Syncrude Project is a joint venture undertaking among Imperial Oil Resources Limited; Mocal Energy Limited; CNOOC Oil Sands Canada; Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership; and Suncor Energy Inc. (with the Suncor interest held by Canadian Oil Sands Partnership #1 and Suncor Energy Ventures Partnership, both wholly owned affiliates of Suncor Energy Inc.).