A company's plan to construct a new $20.6-billion oilsands mine is being seen as a potential boost for Fort McMurray's ailing economy.
But even before the project gets the regulatory green light, there's concern the mine wouldn't rely on local labour.
"We certainly are in an economic circumstance that provides great concern," Mayor Melissa Blake told a representative from Teck Resources' Frontier oilsands project at Tuesday's Wood Buffalo council meeting.
"The fly-in, fly-out situation is something that raises the hackles on people's necks," Blake added.
Teck's Frontier mine would be located 110 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and would generate an anticipated 7,000 construction jobs, according to the Vancouver-based company.
The mine's operations would employ 2,500 people and produce 260,000 barrels of bitumen per day over an expected 40-year life span, the company said.
Operations are planned to begin in 2026.
The project is expected to go to a joint review panel hearing in the fall.
'Business case' to hire local
Robin Johnstone, Teck's manager of community and Indigenous affairs, described the project to council as a "fly-in, fly-out" operation that would bring workers directly to the site aboard chartered planes.
The workers would perform shift work for several weeks while living in camps, then fly home for their breaks.
Fly-in, fly-out workers are commonly described as Fort McMurray's shadow population. Critics of fly-in, fly-out labour say the workers don't contribute in a meaningful way to the local economy.
Coun. Sheldon Germain said while it might have been more cost-effective for oilsands companies to fly workers in from Calgary and other Canadian cities in the past, the region has become more affordable and there's a strong "business case" to employ locals.
"I understand historically why industry made the choices that they made," Germain said. "Now I would challenge industry to take a look at that equation."
Johnstone said he couldn't give many details about the company's employment plans, but he did say the company intends to employ some workers from Fort McMurray.