New Heavy Oil Development Threatens Lubicon Lands

Friends of the Lubicon
PO Box 444 Stn D,
Etobicoke ON M9A 4X4
Tel: (416) 763-7500
Email: fol (at) tao (dot) ca

March 25, 2005

During the past month Lubicon Lake Indian Nation supporters have been writing to the Canadian Minister of Indian Affairs to protest the continued exploitation of oil and gas resources on Lubicon Territory even while a land rights settlement with the Lubicon Nation remains outstanding. Over the course of Outaouais Lubicon Solidarity’s one-month campaign, twelve wells, ten pipelines and six batteries were approved in Lubicon Traditional Territory. That’s on top of the over 1,700 well sites and countless kilometers of pipelines already built in Lubicon Territory.

The province of Alberta also sold oil and gas exploration leases to over 3,000 hectares of Lubicon lands in February alone, netting the province approximately three-quarters of a million dollars in the process.

One set of oil and gas exploration leases poses a particularly serious threat to the Lubicon people because of its location, its scale, and the method of resource exploitation required to extract the oil sands found there.

For that reason, we are asking that supporters write to the companies involved to make them aware of the Lubicon Nation’s concerns and urge them to act responsibly towards the Lubicon Nation.

Deep Well Oil and Gas

Last August the Province of Alberta issued oil sands exploration leases to a company with close ties to the Alberta provincial government called Deep Well Oil and Gas. Deep Well picked up additional adjacent leases in the area through the takeover of another oil company. Deep Well now has a majority interest in leases covering over 63 square miles right in the heart of the unceded traditional Lubicon Territory.

The most publicly prominent representatives of Deep Well Oil and Gas are Horst Schmid and Len Bolger. Schmid is the Chairman of the Deep Well Board of Directors. Bolger is a member of Deep Well’s small Board of Directors.

Schmid was Alberta provincial Minister of Culture and International Trade from 1971 to 1985. He was then appointed Alberta Commissioner General for Trade and Tourism until 1995 when that office was abolished by budget cutbacks. He currently runs a private consulting firm "specializing in international business connections".

Bolger is a retired Shell oil executive and consultant "specializing in technical co-operation between industry and government". He is also Co-Chairman of the Alberta Energy Research Council and Chairman of the Alberta Oil Sands Technology Research Authority. The Alberta Energy Research Council is a planning arm of the Alberta Provincial Energy Department. The Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority was set up by the Alberta government in 1974 to promote research into methods of recovering and processing crude oil from tar sands.

Bolger was also Chairman of Alberta provincial Premier Ralph Klein’s highly political Advisory Council on Electricity. The Advisory Council on Electricity was one of a series of advisory councils made up of people hand-picked by the Klein government to create the illusion that Albertans were being consulted about key Klein government initiatives. Without exception these handpicked Advisory Councils predictably concluded that Albertans approved of Klein government policies. The Advisory Council on Electricity rubber-stamped the Klein government’s highly controversial and economically disastrous deregulation of electric power.

Deep Well has publicly announced that it intends to initiate a large-scale heavy oil extraction program in the unceded traditional Lubicon Territory. Deep Well anticipates drilling up to 512 wells in the Lubicon area to extract heavy oil. Heavy oil is the small fraction of oil sands deposits that can flow relatively freely and can therefore be extracted by more conventional methods. Once the heavy oil has been extracted, companies use the surface infrastructure they have built to provide access for heavy oil extraction to begin the process of extracting the oil from the oil sands.

The method used to extract oil from oil sands deposits of the type found in the Lubicon area involves injecting large quantities of steam into the ground in order to heat the oil sands, thereby loosening it and making the oil flow. At a time when availability of water for human and agricultural use is becoming a bigger and bigger concern in Alberta, oil sands companies in Northern Alberta are not even required to investigate the possibility of using non-potable groundwater in their tar sands operations. Use of potable water in tar sands operations is consequently common in Northern Alberta.

Large amounts of potable water – up to 4 barrels of water for every one barrel of oil extracted – are used in the process of extracting the oil from the oil sands. Even when this water is recycled at least one barrel of potable water is lost forever for every one barrel of oil extracted. No one knows what impact pumping large amounts of steam into the ground will have on the water table and the fragile boreal forest ecosystem.

In 1979 Shell Oil completed construction of an oil sands pilot project just to the west of the traditional Lubicon Territory. Initially Shell used water from a nearby fresh water lake for their operations. In short order the level of the lake dropped to the point where the lake froze solid and killed all the fish. Shell subsequently turned to the Peace River to provide the huge volumes of water it requires to operate its small-scale tar sands pilot project.

Imperial Oil built a larger oil sands facility to the east of Lubicon Territory near a large deep fresh water lake called Cold Lake. By 1998 water levels in Cold Lake had dropped to the point where Imperial Oil was no longer allowed to use water from Cold Lake for its heavy oil complex.

Use of ground water for oil sands extraction can lower the pressure in underground reservoirs. In the Cold Lake area water pressure in underground reservoirs dropped and farmers have had to drill deeper wells to get well water. Well water in the Cold Lake area has also shown increasing levels of poisonous arsenic contamination and contamination with chlorides and phenols, both of which are associated with heavy oil production.

There is another company currently extracting heavy oil on the southwest edge of Lubicon Territory called Blackrock Ventures Inc. It is not known when Blackrock intends to commence steam operations but it is clear that steam operations are on the horizon once they have depleted more limited and more easily produced heavy oil. The nature of the relationship between Blackrock and Deep Well is not known but a man named John Brown is known to be associated in a senior capacity with the operations of both companies.

Deep Well Oil and Gas, however, is the first company to propose a major oil sands operation right in the middle of unceded traditional Lubicon Territory.

Lubicon Response

On September 1, 2004, upon hearing of the sale of leases to Deep Well Oil and Gas, Lubicon lawyer Richard Gariepy wrote to the company’s President and C.E.O. Steven Gawne requesting a meeting between the company’s senior executives and the rightful Lubicon owners of the lands and resources around Sawn Lake.

Mr. Gawne never replied.

At the same time, Lubicon negotiator Kevin Thomas wrote to the provincial negotiator, Alan Maitland, informing Mr. Maitland that part of Deep Well’s new leases fell within a one-mile buffer zone around the proposed Lubicon reserve area at Fish (Haig) Lake. Alberta representatives had earlier agreed to maintain a one-mile buffer zone in which no oil or gas development is to take place pending settlement of Lubicon land rights. Deep Well’s leases extend right to the edge of the Lubicon reserve area.

Alan Maitland never responded.

On March 2, 2005, Lubicon members discovered contractors clearing a large area in their Traditional Territory on behalf of Deep Well. The contractors were asked to halt further operations until a meeting could take place between the company and the Lubicon Chief and Council as earlier requested. Lubicon representatives then made repeated efforts to contact the company and left numerous messages requesting a meeting.

Still the company failed to respond.

On March 3, Lubicon lawyer Gariepy received a call from Deep Well lawyer Robert Hladun, who told him that the Lubicons were "blockading" the work site and costing his clients "$100,00 a day". Mr. Hladun said that his clients would like to meet with the Lubicons and provided a cell phone number where John Brown, former Chief Operating Officer for Deep Well, could be reached. (John Brown was also connected to Deep Well through a numbered company owned and controlled by his daughters, which until recently was a major investor in Deep Well, and is himself a former senior contractor for Blackrock Ventures Inc.)

After a number of calls a meeting was finally arranged for later the afternoon of March 3 at the Lubicon administrative office. Brown was unavailable to meet earlier because he was at the local police station complaining about the Lubicons and requesting police assistance in getting access to Lubicon resources.

At the meeting with the Lubicons Brown claimed to have no authority with the company but he did agree to set up a meeting the next week with senior company representatives. He proposed a meeting the following week and promised to get back to the Lubicons with a date and time. (It was later learned that Mr. Brown’s two daughters had been major investors in Deep Well through a numbered company, that Mr. Brown was in charge of the project in Lubicon Territory, and that Mr. Brown had until recently been Deep Well’s Chief Operating Officer.)

Since that time no one from Deep Well has contacted the Lubicon Nation despite several phone messages left with company representatives.

What You Can Do

The Lubicon people are deeply concerned that this new development could have serious negative effects on their lands. They have been seeking a meeting with the company to discuss their concerns prior to any operations proceeding. Since the company has so far been unavailable to meet with the Lubicons, Lubicon supporters can help by making the company aware that people across Canada and around the world share the Lubicons’ concerns and are watching how the company deals with the Lubicon Nation.

There are at least three main companies who are involved in the project: Deep Well Oil and Gas, Surge Global Energy, and Paradigm Oil and Gas Inc. The latter two have signed agreements to buy into a portion of the development and participate in the exploration program. They should also be made aware of Lubicon concerns about the project they are investing in.

Please write to these companies at the addresses provided below. Be polite but firm. Tell them:

The people to write to are:

Steven P. Gawne
President and C.E.O.
Deep Well Oil and Gas
2600, Sun Life Plaza 144 - 4th Avenue, SW.
Calgary, Alberta 
Canada T2P 3N4
Fax: (403) 232-1464

Fred Kelly
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Surge Global Energy
12220 El Camino Real
Suite 410
San Diego, CA 92130
Fax: (858) 704-5011

Robert L. Pek,
President and C.E.O.
Paradigm Oil and Gas Inc.
12880 Railway Avenue
Unit 35
Richmond, BC
Canada V7E 6G4
Fax: (604) 275-6301

Please send copies of your letters to the Friends of the Lubicon

Friends of the Lubicon
PO Box 444 Stn D,
Etobicoke ON M9A 4X4
Tel: (416) 763-7500
Email: fol (at) tao (dot) ca

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