The ongoing saga of Watson Island took another turn this week with the announcement of an MOU between Colonial Coal and the Coast Tsimshian to explore the potential of purchasing Watson Island from the City, who still own the old pulp mill site following Sun Wave Forest Product’s failure to pay taxes.
It’s important to note this announcement takes place while the property is still the focal point of two legal challenges (at least as of Monday). One involves Sun Wave’s claim to the property. The other is much more complicated and precedent setting and deals with whether or not municipalities have to consult with First Nations before selling property, if Aboriginal title is exclusive to one band and only one band on a given property and whether the Gitxaala or Lax Kw’alaams First Nation claim Aboriginal title to Watson Island.
But that’s in the background, right now from where I sit the announcement of this MOU can only be viewed as positive for the community, the region and the province.
The news release was about as vague as could be, and the CEO of Colonial Coal said a confidentiality agreement negated any chance of discussing plans for the site for the near future. Right now Colonial Coal has two properties being developed in northeastern BC, and are likely looking for a way to get their product to the lucrative Asian market. Coast Tsimshian Resources, owned by the Coast Tsimshian, have developed relationships with businesses in that market, have a trade office in China and are successfully shipping logs to China as I type. Seems like a good partnership to me.
Yes, Prince Rupert already has a coal terminal, but looking at the stats for October, the company is already 22 per cent above the pace of their record year in 2010 and were up 162.7 per cent from last October. Combine that with new long-term agreements signed last week and they’re going to be busy. Maybe the market can handle another export facility?
When the CEO said their plans will be good for the community and the port, I certainly see no reason not to believe him.