A 15 per cent ownership in an oil pipeline is giving eight Indigenous communities in northeastern Alberta a seat at the resource table and a say in the oil sector.
“They’re walking the talk of economic reconciliation,” said Jason Schulz of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, one of three First Nations and five Métis communities that signed the Northern Courier Pipeline Limited Partnership with Suncor Energy.
“We’ll have a seat at the table so we can participate in some of the decisions while also benefiting from long-term revenue streams.”
The agreement announced Thursday listed the communities as Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Conklin Métis Local 193, Fort McKay Métis Nation, Fort McMurray #468 First Nation, Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, Fort Chipewyan Métis Local #125, McMurray Métis and Willow Lake Métis Nation.
They, along with Suncor, purchased a 15 per cent equity interest in the existing pipeline owned by TC Energy (formerly Trans-Canada Pipeline Ltd.) for $40 million. Suncor said the 15 per cent stake is valued at approximately $1.3 billion.
TC Energy sold the remaining 85 per cent to the Alberta Investment Management Corp., a provincial pension plan.
Suncor said in a news release it will manage the dual 90-km pipelines built in 2018, which transport bitumen, diesel and diluent between the Suncor-operated Fort Hills oil sands mine and the company’s east tank farm terminal north of Fort McMurray.
It said the stake is expected to generate gross revenues of approximately $16 million annually for the partnership called Astisiy and “provide reliable income that the Indigenous communities can use at their discretion for decades to come.”
This is not Suncor’s first deal with First Nation partners, but is a “historic” first with the Métis.
Schulz, the director of strategic advisory services for Athabasca Chipewyan in Fort McMurray, said the initial deal is for 21 years with an option to renew. He said the income his community is expecting to earn is confidential.
However, he did disclose the money was earmarked for long-term building projects and cultural preservation.
Mark Little, president and chief executive officer of Suncor, said his company was proud to welcome the eight new business partners.
“We’ve heard from communities that opportunities like this are key to helping their communities thrive,” he said in the release.
Rick Wilson, Alberta’s minister of Indigenous relations, said it was “gratifying to see several Indigenous communities secure for themselves investment in natural resource projects and bolster economic prosperity.”
Schulz said none of the Indigenous partners put their own money into the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021. Instead, the loan guarantee came from the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp.