Despite offering a nearly $1-billion benefits package, which includes a 10 per cent ownership stake, Enbridge continues to struggle to gather First Nations' support in north-central B.C. for its $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline.
The picture emerges in a 424-page report filed with the National Energy Board this week, an update from Enbridge on consultations with First Nations during 2010 and early 2011.
There are nine First Nations in north-central B.C. which appear not to have rejected outright the project, but another half a dozen First Nations are refusing to meet with the company to discuss the project.
The controversial pipeline is meant to open up new markets in Asia for crude from the Alberta oilsands.
The company report says that First Nations like the McLeod Lake Indian Band, north of Prince George, and the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, just east of the city, have engaged in discussions with the Calgary-based company with an interest in learning about economic opportunities. The two First Nations have also participated in meeting with Enbridge on pipeline construction and safety.
Nine First Nations have also been presented with Enbridge's economic benefits package, with the 10 per cent ownership stake alone worth $280 million over 30 years.
The report provides the clearest picture to date of which First Nations might be interested in doing business with Enbridge, as most attention has focused on First Nations who have voice opposition to the pipeline.
Enbridge has also declined to discuss details of which First Nations are interested in the project.
"Aboriginal groups have continued to provide important feedback, which has informed and tailored Northern Gateways response to interests and concerns raised during consultation," said Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway in a prepared statement.
Enbridge officials could not be reached for further comment Friday.
But there are First Nations, who had earlier shown an interest in the project, that have now taken a different stance.
Lake Babine Nation, which has held several meetings with Enbridge, including on economic opportunities, is no longer communicating with the company.
"Any discussion they are relying on [in the report] was probably with the previous council," said new chief Wilf Adam, adding the new council does not want to see Enbridge officials on their traditional territory.
Adam said there is a lot of mistrust of Enbridge, particularly over the company's characterization of the oil spill risk and impact.
Adam said they now want Enbridge to reroute the pipeline to the north, outside of their territory.
And even First Nations with an interest like McLeod Lake have made no decisions yet on support of the project. McLeod Lake is one of two First Nations that have asked to move a pump station for the pipeline onto their reserve land, according to the report.
While the First Nation has concerns with the project, including over oil spills and the company's emergency response, the community is also interested in the potential for jobs, training and contracting for the project, according to the Enbridge report.
McLeod Lake Indian Band chief Derek Orr said Friday as there has just been a new band council elected last week, they are not making any decisions. "I don't want to comment any further," said Orr, who was re-elected to a second term.
The pipeline, which will pass just north of Prince George, is subject to a federal panel review which begins public hearings next year.