After pulling the plug last year on plans for a Lillooet pellet plant, St’at’imc leaders have renewed their interest in the venture.
Last December, the Lillooet Tribal Council confirmed that it had notified its Korean partner of its intention to withdraw from an agreement signed by the two parties in April 2011.
“We haven’t given up on the deal, but we will be looking around for different dancing partners,” Lillooet Tribal Council Chair Chief Garry John told the News at that time.
Since then, St’at’imc leaders have taken several steps to put the pellet plant concept on a new footing.
Earlier this year, the St’at’imc Tribal Holding Company voted to remove its Korean international investment partner, Korean Wood Pellet Corporation (KWP), from their joint venture. The News was told the St’at’imc group would still like to work with the Korean consortium originally backing the pellet plant proposal, but not with KWP as the lead developer on the project.
That decision was followed by a visit to Korea in late May-early June by four representatives of the holding company. Matt Manuel, natural resources co-ordinator for the Lillooet Tribal Council, said the St’at’imc delegation received a “very good reception” from Korean Southern Power Co., which is part of the consortium.
Manuel said the consortium was told the St’at’imc group is not willing to partner anymore with Korean Wood Pellet Corporation. Last December, the Tribal Council cited KWP’s inability to meet deadlines despite receiving “extension after extension” as its reason for walking away from the partnership.
Additionally, the non-renewable forest licence associated with the original project has been transferred to the St’at’imc Tribal Holding Company’s biomass limited partnership. That licence allows the company to log up to 200,000 cubic metres per year. The company’s Forest Stewardship Plan has gone through the consultation process and the company is getting close to the point where it can begin harvesting and extracting value from that timber.
“We are still negotiating a new structure and there a couple of options we’re still pursuing as far as a site” for a pellet plant, said Manuel. The two options are the Bridgeside site in East Lillooet and a site adjacent to Aspen Planers veneer operation, which offers a connection to CN Rail.
He cautioned against raising unrealistic expectations for the pellet plant, saying there’s a “glimmer of hope” that the plant idea can be revived, but there’s still much work to be done.
The News was unable to contact St’at’imc Chiefs Council Chair Chief Garry John for more in-depth comment on prospects for the pellet plant. He was out of town, attending the annual convention of the Assembly of First Nations.
The T’it’q’et Community is also exploring its own avenues for economic development, which may include its own proposal for a pellet plant on T’it’q’et land.
The original $16 million Lillooet-Korean Biomass Limited Partnership project was announced with great fanfare in April of 2011. Logging was supposed to commence in the fall of last year to provide employment for up to 70 people, including employees on the plant floor on a 24/7 basis and loggers in the bush.
Korean investors began discussions with the Lillooet Tribal Council on the pellet plant proposal in 2009. The Koreans wanted to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and could do so with the Lillooet partnership. St’at’imc leaders saw the deal as an opportunity to implement the St’at’imc Land Use Plan and as a revenue sharing opportunity for communities in the northern St’at’imc territory.
Last week, Korean Southern Power announced that it plans to be the first of that country’s power utilities to purchase wood pellets to meet a renewable energy quota imposed by the Korean government.
South Korea’s 13 power utilities must boost their use of renewable energy sources after their government imposed an alternative energy quota to force them to reduce emissions. The mandated quota for producing electricity generated by renewable sources will be increased to 10 per cent by 2022 from two per cent in 2012.