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

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

The West Kelowna Warriors beat the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in BCHL action Friday, April 16, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna goaltender stymies Vernon Vipers for 3-2 win

The Warriors were outshot 44-23 Friday night, but it didn’t bother Johnny Derrick

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Ben Klick is a country music singer living in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s Ben Klick partnering with local country music stations for annual virtual music festival fundraiser

The third annual Music Fest MS will come in the form of a Youtube livestream on May 30

Photo: pixabay.com
Kelowna’s Kitsch Wines hosting Earth Day garbage pickup challenge

“Take a walk through your favourite greenway or park to pick up trash, get your wetsuit on and clean up the lake or get in a boat and fish for trash”

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Okanagan man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; Vernon man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Armaan Dhaliwal hands a cheque for $500 to Shuswap Hospital Foundation president Angie Spencer as his proud grandparents Gordie and Nancy Dhaliwal watch on Friday, April 16. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm boy’s samosa sales benefit hospital foundation

Armaan Dhaliwal was able to give the Shuswap Hospital Foundation a $500 donation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Most Read