The Burns Lake Band (BLB) is planning to create dozens of jobs for its approximately 130 members and the surrounding community.
The band has recently received $2 million from the provincial government to build a biofuel plant in the Burns Lake area.
“I think it’s an important step for the Burns Lake Band and the whole community of Burns Lake,” said BLB Chief Dan George. “Everybody’s interested in jobs and having a better future for themselves and their families.”
The project not only includes building a biofuel plant, but also a greenhouse and an inland fish farm. Once completed, the project is expected to create about 60 positions.
“And then there’s all the spin-off jobs in the bush for logging and hauling.”
Chief George said the fish farm alone would ensure that band members have access to fish while saving the band thousands of dollars each year.
“We buy fish every year out of Prince Rupert for our band members, about 500 fish,” he explained. “That’s about $10,000 a year buying fish.”
The estimated cost of the project is $60 million, which he hopes will be paid largely by investors such as the Hillcore Group.
The location of the project still hasn’t been picked. Chief George expects that construction will start in 2017 and take at least two years to be completed.
“We’re still working on accessing enough fibre to run it [the biofuel plant],” he said. “I’m hiring companies to track down this timber.”
The band is also considering starting a “hybrid forest” in which trees could be fully grown within three years.
“It’s one good option for the future so that we don’t have to chase fibre,” he said. “So we grow our own [fibre] and grow it in rotation to sustain the plant.”
Chief George said the band has been planning to build the biofuel plant for about a year and a half. The main goal of this project will be to create jobs and increase the band’s revenue while reducing the band’s dependence on the federal government.
“As First Nations, no matter how bad the economy goes, we’re always here,” he said. “We need to revitalize our culture and we can’t do that without having more money.”
Earlier this year the Burns Lake Band inaugurated their $8-million hotel called Key-oh Lodge. The 42-room hotel employs five front desk attendants, two housekeepers and a general manager.