Alberta's Stoney Nakoda First Nation says it has signed a "huge" deal with a Chinese petrochemical company to develop oil and gas on its land.
The First Nation is located 60 kilometres west of Calgary and has signed a joint venture agreement with Hong Kong-based Huatong Petrochemical Holdings Ltd. to explore and develop oil and gas deposits on Stoney Nation lands.
About 49,000 hectares of land will be explored and developed through the agreement, with Huatong providing all necessary funding — possibly hundreds of millions of dollars — and Nakoda Oil & Gas Inc. acting as the primary operator for the joint venture.
"The magnitude of this new agreement between Huatong and the Stoney Nations will hopefully bring us one step closer to self-sufficiency for our nation and people," said Bruce Labelle, chief of the Chiniki Nation, which is one of the Stoney Nakoda nations.
Large quantities of natural gas have been produced from the Jumping Pound gas field on the Stoney Nakoda Nation since the 1950s.
J.P. Gladu, president of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business, said the Supreme Court ruling in June recognizing aboriginal title in an area of British Columbia, means that more such deals may be possible.
"What it does is it takes the ambiguity out of the relationship we’re supposed to have had over the past 200 to 400 years," Gladu said in an interview with CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.
"It sets a direction for the relationship between governments and first nations, and industry and first nations," he added.
The Stoney Nakoda deal is a heads-up to businesses that they need to give aboriginal partners an active role, he said.
"We’ve seen a shift from First Nations being service contractors to now being primary producers. Countries like China are seeing an opportunity so I think Canadian investors need to ....pull up their socks and find a way to create equitable partnerships and then maybe we’ll see more Canadian business partnerships," Gladu said.
The Stoney Nakoda Nation includes the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley tribes and is a signatory to Treaty 7.