Alberta First Nations close milestone $503 million oilsands asset deal

Fort McKay First Nation chief Jim Boucher, Suncor chief operating officer Mark Little and Mikisew Cree First Nation chief Archie Waquan sign an agreement recognizing the deal's close. Image: Suncor Energy/Facebook

The Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree bands in northern Alberta have closed what is being described as the largest business investment to date by a First Nations entity in Canada, securing 49 percent interest in Suncor’s East Tank Farm, part of the new Fort Hills oilsands mining project.

The deal was originally announced in October 2016.

“It’s incredible to get to today…we’ve dreamed of this for a long, long time,” Suncor's Mark Little, who will become chief operating officer on Dec. 1, said in a Facebook Live video with Fort McKay chief Jim Boucher and Mikisew Cree chief Archie Waquan.

Barrie Robb, CEO of business development for Fort McKay, said on the video that the $503 million deal, executed with financing through RBC, was initiated by the First Nations themselves.

“I can’t help but notice and comment on the symbolism of two First Nations knocking a door, actually knocking on two doors. Knocking on a door at Suncor and saying, ‘hey leadership at Suncor, we’d really like a different kind of a working relationship,’ and Suncor opening that door and saying come on in, let’s see if we can make it work.

“The second door is the symbolic nature of coming into corporate Canada through RBC’s door…these two First Nations leaders in this country have knocked on two doors and have been welcomed in to a new staring place in corporate Canada," Robb said.

The 190,000 bbl/d Fort Hills project is expected to imminently officially achieve first oil and ramp up to 90 percent of capacity by fall 2018. Both chiefs said they were looking forward to the positive impacts the related revenues from the East Tank Farm operations would have on their communities.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Waquan. “[It] will give my First Nation and also the future generations something that they can look forward to, and be able to develop our government, our infrastructure and our education, which is really, really important for my council.”

Suncor said in a statement that it would use the proceeds from the sale to pay down debt.

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