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Cameron Hills still on hold

Paramount critical of review board; Kakisa opposes development

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 14/01) - The president of Calgary-based Paramount Resources Ltd. says his company likely won't proceed with $30 million worth of drilling and pipelining in Cameron Hills this winter.

NNSL Photo

Clay Riddell: "About one chance in hell we'll be able to do it."

Clay Riddell said the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board's decision on pipelining, sent to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) earlier this month, outlines many mitigative measures that must be addressed, rendering the oil and gas project unfeasible in the near future.

"I'd say there's about one chance in hell that we'll be able to do it," Riddell said. "They've definitely got their priorities mixed up down there."

The review board has produced 21 recommended measures, several of them encouraging DIAND to ensure Paramount amends its benefits and compensation plans with affected communities. Other recommendation would force Paramount to supplement its traditional knowledge study, develop a wildlife monitoring program and revise its air quality modelling analysis.

Roland Semjanovs, communications officer for the review board, said the recommended mitigative measures are not extensive.

Paramount had applied last year to begin the Cameron Hills project -- which lies south of Kakisa, near the Alberta border -- but environmental assessments delayed it. The review board granted Paramount permission to drill the wells, but the pipeline conditions mean the company won't be able to produce those wells, according to Riddell. With several million dollars already invested in the project, he said Paramount will continue to pursue the project, hopeful that DIAND Minister Robert Nault will give the company permission to move ahead. Riddell said his company has a benefits package in place for First Nations.

Cynthia James, economic development officer for the Xatl'odehchee First Nation, said the Hay River Reserve is "in the midst of an agreement with Paramount," but does not yet have anything signed. That agreement is in conjunction with the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation in Fort Providence and the West Point First Nation, James noted, but she declined further comment.

Lloyd Chicot, chief of the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation in Kakisa, said his community will not be part of that agreement as it stands. The Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation, which opposed Paramount's application for permits, wants an arrangement similar to the interim measures agreement between the Deh Cho First Nations and the federal government, giving First Nations greater control over environmental affairs, Chicot said. His band is also insisting on being recognized as the community most affected by Cameron Hills development.

"We're right in the watershed ... and we're the ones who use that area the most," Chicot said. He said the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation has created its own impact benefits agreement, but Paramount "didn't even look at it. They didn't even look at what we put on the table."