Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Co-operation crucial to stem dropping Nechako Reservoir level

Rio Tinto is enlisting the help of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation to ensure enough water remains in the Nechako Reservoir to generate electricity for its Kitimat aluminium smelter.

Cheslatta and Rio Tinto representatives met on Thursday, February 27, to sign the New Day Agreement, a long-term partnership to support the Cheslatta community and Rio Tinto’s hydroelectric operations in the Nechako watershed.

Rio Tinto Canada media relations director Simon Letendre said the agreement will focus on training, employment and business opportunities for the Cheslatta, as well as environmental stewardship.

“Measures include support for a remote training center built on Cheslatta property in 2018, which will deliver diverse trades, skills, safety, marine and driver training courses,” said Letendre.

Cheslatta students will also have access to scholarships, with Rio Tinto and the Cheslatta working to develop internships. Information will also be shared with Cheslatta members on job positions and procurement opportunities within the company’s hydroelectric operations, as well as on potential Cheslatta candidates and suppliers.

The agreement also provides for the creation of the Nechako Reservoir Stewardship Program, a joint initiative that will leverage local knowledge to maintain the Nechako Reservoir watershed ecosystem while promoting recreation and tourism opportunities.”

Rio Tinto BC Works in Kitimat relies on electricity generated at its hydro-electric plant at Kemano, about 80km from the town.

Water from the Nechako Reservoir, which stretches 230 km from its source to the water intake tunnel and covers a surface area of nearly 900 square kilometres, is channelled to the hydro-electric plant through an 18-kilometre tunnel bored through the mountains.

It is this hydro-electric power that ensures BC Works maintains its competitive edge on the world’s aluminium market, which Aluminium Association of Canada president and CEO Jean Simard said in January is forecast to experience a slowdown in the next decade in the face of stiff competition from China’s burgeoning aluminium industry.

It is also this hydro-electric power that is threatened by dropping levels in the Nechako Reservoir.

In an interview with Black Press in June last year, BC Works power, services and wharves operations director Andrew Czornohalan said while the risk of water surplus and water shortage is constantly managed, with decisions related to flood risk or drought risk mitigation occur many months in advance of any potential event, “risk levels can change quickly.”

“We are evaluating options and will take steps in 2019 to mitigate even lower levels in the spring next year, before the 2020 freshet,” said Czornohalan.

Between July 2018 and June 2019 levels in the reservoir dropped to the second-lowest since 1956.

READ MORE: Rio Tinto watching reservoir levels closely

“The total snowpack in the reservoir area was about 70 per cent of the average for the winter. Up until January 2019 it was quite typical then through February and March the levels were virtually flat.”

Recognizing the challenges facing the smelter as a result of low levels, Rio Tinto established the Water Engagement Initiative as a means of collaborating with First Nations, members of the public and governments in the Nechako region to ensure a balance between maintaining the Nechako Reservoir watershed ecosystem while promoting recreation and tourism opportunities.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween said the agreement is another step forward in restoring Cheslatta jurisdiction in their territory and implementing a stewardship initiative for the environment.

“I’m confident that this agreement will build and maintain a new relationship between the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto based on the principles of reconciliation and partnership,” said Leween.

“Cheslatta businesses will have a preference for contracting and procurement opportunities with Rio Tinto. This will promote economic development in our community and build our capacity and confidence. The goal is to secure our self-sufficiency thereby ensuring that Cheslatta will never again be dependent on handouts.”

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said the agreement would ensure “long-term certainty between the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto’s hydroelectric operations” in the watershed.

“We believe that working in partnership with Indigenous peoples is essential to achieve responsible and sustainable resource development that benefits us all,” said Barrios.

He said Rio Tinto and the Cheslatta have been engaged in a process of reconciliation for more than a decade, having returned 63 district lots totalling just over 11,000 acres of land to Cheslatta in 2012.

– with reporting from Aman Parhar

Email the newsroom

Visit our Facebook page

Follow us on Twitter

BCHydroBulkley-Nechako Regional DistrictSite C

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Clearwater his home to many animals, large and small. A community vet is sorely needed, according to a new coalition that is getting the wheels turning in a recruitment campaign for Clearwater. (Claire Hanna photo)
Locals band together to recruit veterinarian to community

A recruitment campaign is in the works as current vet to retire in June

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read