Beginning with one temporary contract in 2008 with Trans Mountain Pipeline, the Simpcw First Nation has emerged as a leading provider of pipeline-related services. The relationship with Trans Mountain has blossomed into a wide range of pipeline-related jobs for members of the Simpcw First Nation through their own Simpcw Resources Group.
The Simpcw, with a total population of 728 as of February 2018, are based in Chu Chua near Barriere in British Columbia’s North Thompson Valley. Simpcw is a division of the Secwepemc, or Shuswap, Nation. The southern boundary extends from north of McLure to east of Jasper on the Snaring River. In total, Simpcw Territory covers approximately 5,000,000 hectares of land, which the First Nation has used and enjoyed since time immemorial.
The purpose of Simpcw Resources Group is to generate income and employment for Simpcw First Nation members. Focusing on the natural resource sector, the Group is focused on using sustainable and environmentally responsible methods while respecting the culture of Simpcw First Nation. Services include:
- Environmental monitoring and management
- Economic development and partnerships with other companies in the North Thompson Valley
- Training and skills development
Over the decades, the majority of Simpcw employment opportunities in the North Thompson have been concentrated in the forest industry. But that changed in 2008 when the First Nation-owned Simpcw Resources Group became heavily involved with Trans Mountain’s Anchor Loop expansion project. The 160-kilometre Anchor Loop project ranged from Hinton, Alberta to Hargreaves, BC, through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park.
“Forestry is still extremely important, a bit of a foundation for the entrepreneurs in the community,” explained Sam Phillip, Simpcw Resources Group LLP General Manager. “But we realized that while we were primarily doing forestry work, we could transfer those skills to other projects such as pipeline work with Kinder Morgan Canada or a run of the river hydroelectric project.
“There are transferable skills. Safety practices in forestry have similar policies and procedures, for example, and there is similar work on equipment. Today, the forestry sector and Kinder Morgan are our two major clients.”
Councillor Ron Lampreau believes all of the Trans Mountain work sets up Simpcw Resources Group to tackle a wide range of opportunities — including bigger construction and infrastructure contracts.
“We’ve been working on the existing pipeline for so long now that if a big project did expose itself to us we’re well set up to take it on,” Lampreau added.
Phillips said a typical pipeline maintenance project or one eliminating a natural hazard along the right-of-way could involve excavators, rock trucks, sandblasting units, highly-skilled labour, security and first aid. The environmental side of a project is “huge,” he said, involving biologists, environmental technicians and water trucks. “There’s also other work, brush clearing along the line, traffic control.”
Kelvin Stelter, Senior Technical Supervisor with Kinder Morgan Canada, has been working with the Simpcw since Anchor Loop.
“They’re one of the main contractors on the maintenance side, for sure. We contract them to carry out integrity work — pipeline excavation, sandblasting, recoating, pipe replacement, those sorts of things,” Stelter said.
“We are proud of the work and high level of training and commitment our employees have and their high level of professionalism and expertise in the field,” Phillips said. “With the crews we have working on the Kinder Morgan jobs now, if a major project comes up we can bring the same group together on something else, whether it’s a BC highway project, a run of river development, a transmission line — or whatever. We can do it.”