Flying Dust inks historic oil deal

Flying Dust chief Jim Norman is the first to sign the agreement package before passing it down the line to Kim Wallace and Keith Hemke of Braveheart Oil and Gas Ltd. From there the papers were sent to Ottawa to allow Flying Dust to convert the lands to their reserve and begin the process of extraction.

By Ben Ingram

A historic deal was finalized Sept. 2 between Flying Dust and Braveheart Oil and Gas Ltd., a company based out of Calgary, to begin oil and gas development on Flying Dust’s land holdings near Estevan.

The agreement is pending government approval, but Chief Jim Norman said he expects it to go through within six months.

“We’re finally starting to see the fruit of Treaty Land Entitlement, to create economic development in First Nations communities,” Norman said, referring to a 1992 agreement that found Flying Dust to be entitled to a credit of over 30,000 extra acres of land.

Using the TLE, Flying Dust was able to purchase 960 acres in the southeast corner of the province, land that is known to have oil and gas reserves. The deal with Braveheart comes on the heels of a unique partnership between a First Nation community and private-sector industry.

“So for us to develop a partnership with a non-First Nation entity, it’s ground-breaking in a lot of ways,” Norman explained. “You’ve got so many things that work against you…all kinds of rules that hamper industry working in First Nation communities.”

The prospect of getting into the business of economic and resource development has led Flying Dust to incorporate its own company, Flying Energy. The hope is that with deals like these, the company can one day expand beyond partnerships and become an economic player in its own right.

The president of Flying Energy is Percy Derocher.

“We’ve done all our homework and everything’s done,” Derocher said of his expectations that the agreement will be approved by the federal government.

Those involved, both from Flying Dust and Braveheart, have described it as a learning process due to the unique nature of the deal. Where standard business agreements between private-sector companies do not have to adhere to strict guidelines, the concept of a First Nations community in Canada making these types of agreements is a novel one.

Derocher described the hurdles that a First Nation must jump through in order to make such a deal happen. Once the agreement is finalized and the profits start rolling in, even more obstacles are likely to stand in the way.

“Approval after approval, hopefully we’ll be getting some royalty dollars but you can’t always spend it. (The federal government) can say no,” Derocher said, even though Flying Dust raised the funding for the venture out of its own pocket.

It’s a major move for Flying Dust, one that is four years in the making. Beginning with a memorandum of understanding between Flying Dust and the Samson Cree Nation of Hobbema, Alta., the arrangement was eventually signed off to Braveheart.

Since then it has been a long and arduous process to see the deal become a reality.

“There’s fears on both sides in any kind of partnership,” Norman said, adding his optimism that when the profits start coming for both sides, the deal could lead to more as the confidence of the private-sector in making deals with First Nation communities like Flying Dust grows.

“If you’re a good partner and you do have something to contribute and you do develop what you said your goals were going to be, that’s what industry wants to see,” he said.

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