Despite protest blockades and the Covid-19 pandemic, work is nearly one-third finished on the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project across northern British Columbia (BC) for the LNG Canada export terminal on the Pacific coast, according to TC Energy Corp.

The C$6.6 billion ($5 billion) BC pipeline project is 31% finished, TC Energy said. The completion target remains 2023.

Northern community participation and support from elected chiefs and councils of all 20 tribes along the CGL route helped the project stay on the rails while BC, Ontario and Quebec protesters staged railway barricades, marches and sit-ins earlier this year.

At an annual investor day Tuesday, TC Energy Canadian pipelines chief Tracy Robinson said CGL has awarded 184 contracts to 84 native businesses and about 850 tribe citizens are working on the project.

CGL is part of the Calgary pipeline company’s growth agenda, with the first phase of the project for 2 Bcf/d. It would link to the first stage of LNG Canada’s C$18 billion ($13.5 billion) terminal under construction at Kitimat. The 48-inch diameter CGL pipeline could be expanded to 5 Bcf/d.

CGL and LNG Canada cut their construction crews in half when Covid-19 ratcheted up last spring. But strict health and safety controls enabled contractors to build the project work forces back up to full strength.

More than 3,200 workers are busy at the LNG Canada site alone, according to TC Energy. About 75% of CGL’s 670-kilometer (400-mile) right-of-way has been cleared, the first 50 kilometers (30 miles) of pipe have been laid and work camps have been built for growing crews.

TC Energy’s liquids pipelines chief Bevin Wirzba expressed optimism that the job creation and native benefits formula that helped CGL progress also would work for the firm’s contested Keystone XL plan for 830,000 b/d of oil exports to the United States.

The firm reported making a deal valued at up to C$1 billion ($750 million) on a Keystone XL participation agreement announced in September with a five-tribe native investment group, Natural Law Energy.

Wirzba said TC Energy’s native cooperation and U.S. job creation strategies should encourage U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to reconsider his declared intention to scrap the Keystone XL construction permit granted by his defeated opponent, President Donald Trump.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney praised the native participation deal and said, “We look forward to working with TC Energy and Natural Law Energy as we continue to construct this project of critical importance to North American energy independence and economic recovery on both sides of the border.”

Kenney’s provincial government backs Keystone XL with a C$7.5 billion ($5.3 billion) part-ownership and loan guarantee package. About 3,000 workers are building the Canadian legs. TC Energy president Russ Girling predicted the Keystone XL labor force would grow to 15,000 in 2021 if Biden allows construction in the United States.