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Aboriginal businesses find success in oil sands

Total business spend by Cenovus with First Nations and Métis-owned companies nears $2.5 billion

A Swamp Cats Ltd. safety meeting on site at our Christina Lake project

August 2018 - For more than a decade, Vern Janvier has had a front row view of the positive economic impacts oil sands developments have had on his Nation in northern Alberta.

Vern is Chief of the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation, located about 400 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. He says the willingness of companies like Cenovus to provide opportunities for Aboriginal-owned enterprises in Alberta’s oil sands has helped businesses in his community to develop and prosper.

“Income from business activity with Cenovus represents anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent of our community’s annual budget,” Chief Vern says. “It helps us to provide 200 housing units for our Nation, maintain roads and support Elder programs. Our relationship with Cenovus is one that we’ve been able to rely on.”

Chief Vern,
Chipewyan Prairie First Nation

Cenovus places value on having productive, mutually beneficial relationships with First Nations and Métis communities near its operations and endeavours to procure goods and services from local providers whenever possible.

“We’re very proud of the business relationships we have built,” says Trent Zacharias, Manager, Community & Aboriginal Affairs for Cenovus. “Part of that has meant providing business opportunities so that communities develop the expertise to participate in the industry so that they grow and benefit along with us.”

Cenovus has now reached a significant milestone in overall Aboriginal business development as our total business spend since becoming a standalone company in December 2009 has reached almost $2.5 billion. In 2017, we spent approximately $240 million with First Nations and Métis-owned companies that provided us with everything from well services to earth works.

“Our Nation has made progress because of the oil sands industry and I congratulate Cenovus on this milestone,” says Chief Vern. He wants to continue building the relationship to provide further benefits such as improving education for his community. “We’re working to build a sustainable, long-term relationship by looking at employment, new business opportunities as well as continuing our traditional lives through hunting, fishing and trapping.”

Business profile

Swamp Cats Ltd., a joint venture with Chipewyan Prairie, specializes in civil earthworks and construction, is a long-time service provider to Cenovus. The company, which has an inventory of 500 pieces of heavy equipment, is Aboriginal-owned and has been in business for 20 years. Swamp Cats has helped to build many of the well pads and roads at our Christina Lake oil sands project near the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation. Over the winter of 2017-18, Swamp Cats had about 140 people working at Christina Lake using more than 80 pieces of heavy equipment.

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