The Deh Cho First Nations sealed a key economic development deal with the Canadian government on Monday, resolving one of the major issues preventing development of the long proposed C$7 billion Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline.

The Deh Cho filed two lawsuits last September against the federal government, charging that they had been unfairly excluded from the pipeline review process. About 40% of the proposed pipeline would travel through the Deh Cho region, which is located in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories. Provincial, federal and Deh Cho officials have been working together for several months to resolve the problems (see Daily GPI, July 11).

The federal government first offered a settlement in May, which was unanimously but conditionally approved by the Deh Cho chiefs and elders. On Monday, Canada agreed to provide the native tribe with C$15 million for economic development. Now, Canadian officials will work with the Deh Cho on a larger agreement on land claims and self-governance, separate issues which could take several years to resolve.

“We’re relieved that the whole thing is finally done,” said Deh Cho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Although the Deh Cho issue is settled regarding the Mackenzie pipe, work is still at a standstill. Imperial Oil Ltd., which is leading the efforts on the pipe, halted most of the work in April, citing slow regulatory progress and financial demands (see Daily GPI, April 29). Since Imperial called a halt to the work, other producers and business groups have complained about other issues, including open access (see Daily GPI, July 5; June 13).

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