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FFI on key concerns for wind energy future

Stephen Appleton, Canada Country Manager at FFI. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST — All eyes may be on World Energy GH2 and their proposed wind development project on the Port au Port Peninsula, but they are not the only large corporation looking at the west coast for wind development.

Fortesque Future Industries (FFI), who refer to themselves as a global green energy company committed to producing green hydrogen, containing zero carbon, from 100 per cent renewable sources, has recently completed information sessions on the Southwest and West coasts of the province in the hopes of engaging the community and formulating plans with stakeholders for wind development.

Stephen Appleton, Canada Country Manager at FFI, said one of their taglines is ‘thriving communities.’

“Things start from the top and work their way down, and in this case, at the top are communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. People who know the land best are the ones who are on the land, and it is our responsibility to see how best we can share our ideas with the ideas that they have and have cultivated over decades, if not hundreds of years in some cases. That’s an obligation we have and that is the approach we take.”

Appleton was present at the meeting in Port Aux Basques and said the reaction from communities thus far has been great.

“The reception thus far, I have to say, is significantly positive. I think positive in the sense that, regardless of any other presentations, positive in the sense that this is a good message, this is a receptive message, and we like that. Then when you put it in the context of comparing this message to others, I think that it is further reinforced as being a positive approach.”

Appleton said that regardless of how much support a project has, there will always be a certain degree of protest.

“Concerns about, for example, water, the visual aspect of what this will look like, concerns about ‘how do we know to trust you because we have other people who are talking to us,’ these are legitimate concerns. Have we come across an individual or group that was adamant in terms of saying, ‘it doesn’t matter what your message is, we aren’t having that’? My answer to that is no. I have found that communities on the island are incredibly receptive, respectful, and we just wanted to reciprocate.”

FFI may be coming in behind World Energy GH2 in terms of how far along they are in discussions, but they have already signed numerous Memorandums of Understanding with Indigenous nations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We signed an MOU with the Innu Nation in Labrador, and that took a long time for us, particularly during COVID where I did not have the opportunity to fly there. We were able to come to an agreement on an MOU that both parties signed, about the examination of Gull Island and — to the testimony of the leadership on the Innu Nation — they did it over teams which I am told is most unusual for any Indigenous group to do such,” said Appleton. “We, during the same time period, October of 2021, we successfully negotiated an MOU with a number of Homeguard Cree, First Nations from north-central Manitoba on two hydro assets that we agreed to collaborate on and explore to see if they could be made commercially viable, and we did that in British Columbia with the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and Chief (Dolleen) Logan and her leadership. Foundationally, our strategy and approach is to engage the communities, tell them our story — we think it’s a great story — and let’s start there.”

Labrador is not the only portion of the province where FFI has received this level of support. They also signed an MOU with Chief Mi’sel Joe and Miawpukek First Nation on Aug. 22.

“I have the utmost respect for Chief Mi’sel Joe, who is not only respected within Atlantic Canada, but throughout Canada, and when I flew down to Conne River and met with him, his council, and his leadership group, I came out of there so impressed, and we just knew we wanted to move forward with them and explore these opportunities and fortunately we were able to realize that.”

Appleton believes the reason that reaction has been overall positive is because of the way in which FFI is approaching the conversation.

“We’re not showing up saying, ‘here’s a preconceived plan and we’d like you to buy into it.’ We show up and say, ‘We have some ideas. We are a very successful company with a lot of financial depth and innovative technology that we are doing a lot of research and development on. We have an idea, and we’d like to share it with you and welcome your ideas on how we can make it better and explore to see whether or not we can make it commercially viable.’ If it’s not commercially viable, there will not be a project. We are not coming into a community to build a failed project.”

Another key for FFI is not just ensuring the respect and collaboration of communities, but the respect for the environment as well.

“We have three tenets in Fortesque. First we respect human rights, Indigenous rights, and the traditional knowledge of the land. The second tenets is we respect the environment, and the third tenets is be commercially viable, because we are a business, but that’s how important the environment is. It sits within our three tenets of engaging on any enterprise,” said Appleton. “We’re talking about some very sensitive habitats. We have had this experience in the past with regards to our iron ore operations and cultural inherited sites, so we are bringing the best from those learnings to provide them here in a meaningful way, superimposed by some of the best technology that we have developed.”

Appleton said the importance of the environment is paramount in everything they aim to do when it comes to wind energy development in this region.

“We have been studying Newfoundland and Labrador for almost two years. It is just since the announcement of the moratorium on the 5th of April where we thought the timing is now for us to become more public. So that may give a perception of moving slow, but we’ve been doing our homework in a way that we can come in best informed before showing up in front of communities with our ideas,” explained Appleton. “We want partners that are fully informed and that share mutual respect. Those are the best partners in life, let alone in business.”

Coming in behind other corporations is not an issue for FFI. Appleton said they are not worried about how long it takes them to develop their plan because there is enough of the resource to go around.

“There is such resource available for prudent development, responsible development, that there’s not one company that’s going to have all of it. So the best way is to

work collaboratively, co-operatively, and there will always be some aspects — as private sector companies do- where there may be a bit of overlap and we have to figure out our boundaries — but overall, the development of green hydrogen on the West coast of Newfoundland is a tremendous opportunity for a number of performants.”

FFI’s parent company, Fortesque Metals Group, deals in the iron ore industry, and Appleton believes that experience with is an asset for moving forward with green hydrogen development.

“We built the ports, the railroads, the mines, the processing plants, built the trains. We’ve done all that, so we’ve learned a great deal. What we’ve taken away and what our founder studied was that our iron ore operations were carbon emitters, so not compatible with climate change. The creation of Fortesque Future Industries was not only intended to responsibly address climate change, but was also to decarbonize our iron ore operations to a net zero level for Scope One and Scope Two by 2030. Those are the most strident corporate goals in the world.”

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