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Gaby Poirier, general manager of B.C. operations, at the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat site with stacks of aluminum ingots. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
Gaby Poirier, general manager of B.C. operations, at the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat site with stacks of aluminum ingots. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

Kitimat’s modern-day LNG gold rush Add to ...

He is working with investors on a proposal to build a new medical clinic that would cater largely to the expected influx of industrial workers.

The proposed facility would provide walk-in service for patients who do not have a local doctor and would involve International SOS, a medical services company that already provides service to the KMP project in Kitimat, Dr. Mills said.

“Discussions are ongoing with RTA, Chevron, Shell and others, and with our ability to look after their needs, and with their support, the clinic should be open to patients by mid 2015,” he said.

The Haisla Nation is also making plans.

Based in Kitamaat Village at the head of the Douglas Channel, the 1,700-member Haisla Nation is part of the Douglas Channel Energy Partnership, an LNG proposal, and has business ventures in transportation, accommodation and other services.

Since the smelter upgrade began, Rio Tinto Alcan has poured about $200-million into Haisla-owned businesses or joint ventures, including Bridgemans Services, which brought the Silja Festival to town.

The unemployment rate among the Haisla, once hovering at 50 per cent or higher, is now virtually nil, Haisla Councillor Ellis Ross said.

High on council’s priorities is more on-reserve housing, a long-standing issue that has become more pressing as young people return to the community to take jobs that did not exist a decade ago.

“We’ve always had a housing problem, and now that we have some resources at our disposal, we’re actually starting to look at how do we resolve that issue on our own terms instead of relying totally on government money,” Mr. Ross said.

Some of those resources came through a deal with the province that allowed the Haisla to acquire a parcel of Crown land to use for an LNG facility.

Other First Nations have recently signed LNG revenue-sharing agreements, part of a provincial approach designed to spur aboriginal economies.

The Haisla also have a stake in the Kitimat Valley Institute, a private agency that provides industry-required training in, for example, site security and orientation.

By offering such training close to home, the facility increases employment opportunities for local residents, especially First Nations people who might otherwise not have the required skills to land a job.

Beginning last month, the institute has been pumping 210 people a week through site orientation programs required for the smelter upgrade project – work that has required taking over space at a nearby golf club to accommodate the crews.

The institute has gone from two to nine full-time instructors and does not see business slacking off any time soon, business and development manager Jodie Cook said.

“Just like everyone else is ramping up – we are trying to do the same.”

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