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Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it declares intent to enter coal project partnership near Sparwood

Nasukin Heidi Gravelle called it an opportunity on the path to self-determination

Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band - YQT) has declared their intention to enter into a ‘groundbreaking partnership’ with North Coal and Pacific Road Capital to develop a coal project near Sparwood.

The three parties “are proud to announce they have entered into a Letter of Intent setting out the parties intention to form a partnership that will jointly progress and develop North Coal’s Michel Project, located in the Elk Valley near Sparwood,” according to a joint news release.

The proposed partnership is centred around principles of co-ownership, co-management, and co-governance, and is the culmination of many years of respectful engagement between the parties, the release says.

The Michel Project is a development-stage metallurgical coal project “that incorporates industry-leading mine design, strong water protection, low operational carbon emissions, and accelerated natural reclamation plans that have been designed collaboratively with input from YQT.”

“Under the proposed partnership, YQT will take up direct ownership interests in North Coal and the Michel Project, and solidify a direct and meaningful role in the activities and ultimate development within the ʔakanuxunik̓ ʔamakis̓ territory and in generating potential opportunities for its people.”

Nasukin Heidi Gravelle of YQT touted the partnership as a “a tremendous opportunity for YQT on our path to self-determination.”

“This partnership has been built on mutual respect, collaboration, and integrity, while working with our community members, elders, and leadership to create a sustainable future built on our strong traditions and culture. By working together with Pacific Road Capital, we will have set a precedence for other companies looking to partner in economic ventures on unceded territory. We look forward to working together to create new opportunities for YQT and other First Nations on this important project.”

North Coal and YQT together will continue their hands-on role around managing significant impacts and forwarding a best-in-class project, the release says.

Matt Fifield, chairman of North Coal and managing director of Pacific Road Capital., said they are “proud to further strengthen our alignment with YQT as they join us as direct co-owners and co-managers of North Coal’s Michel Project.”

“Further, YQT will bring important knowledge and skills to North Coal’s development path, and the very nature of our partnership reflects Pacific Road’s fundamental beliefs around responsible resource ownership and investment,” he said.

Ian Maxwell, CEO of North Coal, echoed Fifield’s sentiment, saying their “development pathway has established a number of firsts.”

“We have designed our project with the highest standards of water quality at its heart, constantly putting environmental standards and decisions first. Now, our project and the development team will benefit greatly from YQT’s direct input,” Maxwell said.

“Our plans will be strengthened by YQT’s substantial knowledge of and connection to the land, traditional cultural heritage, and land management practices. Our development path will benefit from YQT’s extensive connections with and knowledge of other First Nations in the region of Tobacco Plains.”

Maxwell said they expect it to be beneficial to all parties.

The three parties expect to formalize the terms of the partnership through definitive agreements in the near future and have agreed to advance the Michel Project through the Government of British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Process and to further project feasibility and implementation plans.

READ MORE: Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it breaks ground for upcoming RV park and gas station in South Country


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