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Alberta government boosts Indigenous participation in orphan well reclamation work

The Alberta government announced plans Wednesday for boosting Indigenous participation in the province’s $1-billion program to reclaim inactive oil and gas wells.

'Unprecedented collaboration between government, First Nations and industry'

A crew works on a natural gas well in Alberta. As of July 15, the provincial government had granted $69 million to 140 companies to reclaim unused wells. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

The Alberta government announced plans Wednesday for boosting Indigenous participation in the province's $1-billion program to reclaim inactive oil and gas wells.

The province says it has set up a working group of Indigenous communities and companies and that it will appoint an Indigenous liaison who will help facilitate Indigenous participation in the Site Rehabilitation Program.

The working group so far has about 50 participants, including Backwoods Energy Services, an oilfield service company owned by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation northwest of Edmonton.

"Meaningful participation in energy projects is a game changer for Indigenous businesses and communities," said Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson.

"The response we are hearing from Indigenous communities to this program is overwhelmingly positive and we are looking forward to helping them become the economic powerhouses we all know they can be."

During the first round of the program, Backwoods Energy was approved to do the closure work on 55 sites on the Enoch Cree Nation. Western Petroleum Management, also an Indigenous-owned company, was approved to conduct work on 257 sites across the province, the government said.

Since the federally-funded program was launched at the start of May, $69 million has been granted to 140 companies, the province says.

It's anticipated the program will create approximately 5,300 jobs.

"This unprecedented collaboration between government, First Nations and industry, that benefits all peoples, is what our common ancestors had in mind when Treaty 6 was signed," said Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations Grand Chief Billy Morin.

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