Where Business Lives

By Anna Guy

Built for industry, the District of Kitimat is on the edge of another major economic boom.

In 2014, BC Hydro and LNG Canada signed a power agreement to allow for LNG Canada to use clean, renewable electricity from BC Hydro for a portion of the power needed for its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Kitimat by building a LNG export facility in Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada, which consists of two processing units, referred to as “trains.”

What makes Kitimat such an attractive location for LNG Canada? According to Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth Kitimat, it’s one of the most unique communities in North America, one of a handful in North America that was a planned community.

“Kitimat is an industry town, and the only reason we exist is because of industry,” he says. Indeed, in the 1950s, the Aluminum Company of Canada pulled renowned urban planner and architect, Clarence Stein out of retirement to design a modern town that would revolve around the Aluminum smelter (which is now run by Rio Tinto).

“The Aluminum Company of Canada worked with the provincial government, allowing them to dam up and create a reservoir, and build an aluminum smelter in Kitimat,” says Germuth. “At the time, this was the largest Canadian infrastructure project in Canada.”

Alcan has always been the main employer in Kitimat. In the 70’s Eurocan was added, and Methanex in the 80s. “Our slogan is A Marvel of Nature and Industry,” says Germuth. “The Majority of our community members stand up and say we are supportive of industry.”

In a full circle moment, today, Rio Tinto’s Kitimat aluminum smelter, which underwent a multi-billion-dollar project for the modernization in2014, is once again one of the largest private construction projects in British Columbia’s history. The project will increase the smelter’s current production capacity by 48 per cent, making it of the most efficient, and lowest-cost smelters in the world. “The scope of these projects is quite something for a little town like this,” says Germuth.

The new Liquefied Natural Gas project has brought a lot of excitement to the community. Canada has the resources to produce the cleanest LNG in the world, says Germuth, adding it is a competitive alternative to coal-fired facilities. “You can look at every bit of LNG that is going to leave here as either going to stop a coal burning facility from being built elsewhere or allow an older one to be decommissioned in favour of cleaner burning gas,” he says. “The net benefit of what we are seeing on a global scale the benefits far outweigh the risks.”

The economic benefits are substantial as well. In 2018, LNG Canada announced the value of contracts and subcontracts following the first three months of the construction phase project at over $937 million in contracts and subcontracts with First Nations enterprises and other businesses across Canada.

“LNG Canada is extremely well supported because they are outstanding corporate citizens to work with,” says Germuth. “Their training process is second-to-none, they have funded scholarships, apprenticeships, and for anyone living in Kitimat who wants to work in the project, LNG has had an opportunity for them to do that.”

LNG Canada says helping British Columbian youth to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead as our project moves into construction. “By introducing young people to trades training programs while they are still in school, we hope they will be left with a positive impression and consider pursuing trades certification when they graduate,” said Tracey MacKinnon, Workforce Development Manager at LNG Canada.

Kitimat is the ideal community to deliver a competitive project will bring thousands of jobs and spin-off economic benefits to First Nations, local communities, and to all Canadians.