Nova Scotia

Proposed Goldboro LNG plant could be in jeopardy over Mi'kmaq consultations

Pieridae Energy says its proposed Guysborough County, N.S., liquefied natural gas project could be irreparably harmed by regulatory delays.

Sipekne'katik First Nation says it was not consulted as required under federal law

Calgary-based Pieridae Energy Ltd. wants to develop a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas plant at Goldboro. (Canadian Press)

A proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Guysborough County, N.S., has hit a snag and may be in jeopardy.

Earlier this year, Pieridae Energy Ltd. said it was nearly ready to make a final investment decision on the multibillion-dollar facility.

But the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which is considering the company's application, recently called a hearing for Oct. 15 to consider whether the Crown fulfilled its duty to consult with the Mi'kmaq.

The company said in a filing that any delay beyond Sept. 28 could irreparably harm the project.

The band office is about 250 kilometres west of Goldboro, but Chief Michael Sack has said all along that Sipekne'katik First Nation never surrendered any of its traditional territory. (Facebook)

Earlier this year, the Sipekne'katik First Nation told the UARB it had not been consulted as required under federal law.

Chief Michael Sack said the Crown and company may have talked to the Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn negotiating office, also known as the Mi'kmaq Rights Initiative.

However, he said, that organization doesn't represent Sipekne'katik.

The UARB tried to resolve the issue through correspondence but finally called a hearing.

No one from Pieridae returned CBC calls for comment.

But in its filing, the company said it has tried twice to engage the Sipekne'katik First Nation, but has been rebuffed or ignored.

Pieridae also said it recently acquired shares in Ikkuma Resources Corp., which it needed to finance the project.

"Thus, the continued delay by the board in rendering its decision on whether to grant a permit to construct the Goldboro LNG facility may cause irreparable harm to the proponent," the company said.

In addition, it said, it is "inconceivable" that the treaty rights of a First Nation 250 kilometres away could be impacted by the development.

Sipekne'katik's band office is located north of Halifax. Goldboro is east of there.

Sack, who was also unavailable for comment, said in a filing that the entire province is traditional Mi'kmaq territory.

Complicated negotiations

The Sipekne'katik First Nation quit working with the Mi'kmaq negotiating office in 2013, and Millbrook First Nation left three years later.

The negotiating office now represents just 11 of the 13 First Nations in the province.

That means the provincial and federal governments have to negotiate with three bodies rather than one.

Province says it is consulting

The Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs said it will address the upcoming UARB hearing, but no one from the department would speak ahead of time to CBC about the Crown's duty to consult.

However, "we can confirm that the province is carrying on a process of ongoing consultation with Sipekne'katik about the project in relation to various Crown approvals," a spokesperson said in an email.

This isn't the first time the province's duty to consult has run afoul of Mi'kmaq First Nations.

In August, the UARB suspended a Nova Scotia Power application to refurbish the Tusket Falls dam in Yarmouth County over Mi'kmaq objections that the Crown had not properly consulted them.

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 33 years. He has spent the last 15 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.