For the second time in several months, the McLeod Lake Indian Band north of Prince George will be involved in a major resource project.

On Wednesday at the BC Natural Resources Forum from the Conference and Civic Centre , the first nation and Defense Metals entered an agreement surrounding the Wicheeda Project, involving rare earth elements.

The agreement saw McLeod Lake purchase “a meaningful equity stake in Defense Metals,” the band reporting they now hold 2.6 million common company shares.

The 20,000 hectare rare earth element Project is situated on the traditional territory of the McLeod Lake Indian Band.

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With the purchase of shares, the Band and Defense Metals entered into a Co-Design Agreement, which “emphasizes a joint planning approach, empowering MLIB to play an integral part in the design and decision-making process in the technical, social, engineering and environmental aspects of the Wicheeda Project.”

Back in October, the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the province signed a memorandum of understanding laying the foundation for a proposed seven-billion dollar Tse’khene energy transition hub north of city limits.

The first proposed project is a hydrogen production facility that would help to significantly reduce emissions in industries that are hard to decarbonize.

In addition, a straddle plant is also being proposed which would reduce carbon emissions by extracting high-value natural gas liquids that would otherwise be burned as by-products in the gas distribution system.

Collectively, both projects could create as many as 2,000 construction jobs and 500 permanent, full-time jobs.

Energy and Mines Minister Josie Osborne told the MLIB is in a pretty advantageous spot geographically to broaden their horizons.

“They are very fortunate to be at an intersection of all of the right circumstances. So, it means having transportation, railway and highway close to clean energy, having the pipelines come through the territory and they are very well situated for that.”

“What drives the McLeod Lake Indian Band from my understanding is the deep commitment to provide opportunities for the people and to be able to care for the environment and do things in a way that leaves benefits for their children and grand children.”

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In addition, what stood out to Osborne was the willingness by both parties to establish their relationship prior to the environmental assessment process.

“It is a signal we are seeing across industry about the commitment to work with First Nations in partnership in all approvals of a mine ensuring that benefits flow to the nation.”

“Defense Metals like many other companies here in British Columbia understand that partnership with First Nations and the commitment to reconciliation and into economic reconciliation is incredibly important – it’s a very hopeful symbol and an inspiration I think to the rest of the sector here in BC.”

The BC Natural Resources Forum wraps up today (Thursday).

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