Tahltan Nation Development Corporation: Partners in Bringing Business to Northern British Columbia

Northwestern British Columbia includes the traditional territory of the Tahltan, and it is a vast area rich in natural resources such as gold, copper, silver, green energy, forestry, wildlife, as well as wilderness resources. However, taking advantage of valuable opportunities in the territory, while also maintaining the environment and the well being of Tahltan communities, can be an extremely complicated operation.
Realizing the economic opportunities and providing stable local employment is why the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation (TNDC) was created. Twenty-six years ago, the Dease Lake, British Columbia-based company was formed to “create industry from a way of life,” and today TNDC’s many associated endeavors promote sustainable development policies throughout tribal territory, while meeting the extra-operational needs of mining and exploration ventures. In the past three decades TNDC has expanded to offer a full range of services – catering to heavy equipment rentals, and everything in between.
“We’re a support services company, and our main focus is to work with companies at any part of the development of their operations,” explains Bill Adsit, president of TNDC. “We started out mainly doing earthwork and road building, and at one time we were even building houses. We don’t build houses anymore, but we do have companies to handle environmental consulting work, earthmoving, transportation, bridge building and catering.” Other ventures include road maintenance and avalanche control, helicopter services, freight hauling, pipeline construction, engineering, exploration and more.
Today, the company counts almost two-dozen operational entities and joint ventures, each created to help realize new economic and employment opportunities while adhering to Tahltan community values in areas that few can manage to successfully navigate. TNDC and its catering division, Spatsizi Remote Services (SRS), are the two main business activities, but over the past four or five years the group has expanded to 22 different companies and joint ventures through which it handles different services. SRS currently employs 70 people and provides catering and camp operation services at remote industrial sites for several hundred occupants.
Supporting a Community
Many ventures have involved mining, and all are structured to benefit territory residents. For example, TNDC has established companies such as Tahltan Drilling Services Corporation, which was formed in 2010 to facilitate the provision of drilling services in the traditional territory, and to provide training and safety programs to locally recruited general labour, drill operators, drill helpers and other personnel.
“TNDC as an organization earns all its own revenues from contract work without government funding. It is a limited partnership owned by its shareholders, the Tahltan band, the Iskut band and the Tahltan Central Council, with TNDC acting as a general partner,” explains Adsit.
“Under TNDC we have all these other companies run as joint ventures or limited liability partnerships that allow us to take advantage of each other’s abilities and benefit beyond finances,” continues Adsit. “For example, we have a joint venture with Valard Construction Company that builds power lines, and they plan on training linemen for the upcoming contract with BC Hydro, whereas we can provide them with heavy equipment to get the job done. Our partner companies will provide their own project managers, we will get to train our people, and we share the profits. It’s a good way for us to grow.”
Sodexo, a global company that delivers comprehensive on-site service solutions in over 80 countries, has been working in partnership with TNDC since 2002 on numerous mining, oil and gas, and hydro projects. “We’ve developed a win-win relationship with TNDC over the years. They are very business-minded, but also recognize the need to balance a good business opportunity with the needs of the communities they serve,” explains Dean Johnson, president of Sodexo Canada.
“Through our partnerships we are both able to serve clients we couldn’t support on our own. Sodexo provides the training and support and TNDC provides the people resources we simply couldn’t source in these remote areas. Over the years our relationship has evolved into a true collaboration where we work together proactively in building the business case around an opportunity.”
Operating on Values and Vision
With a wealth of services to offer, it’s no surprise that TNDC has been a part of some of the most major infrastructural investments the area has seen in decades. “Since the economy slowed in 2008, there haven’t been too many projects in the mining industry,” laments Adsit. “But we are working with AltaGas in the hydro-electricity project they are building for the Northwestern Transmission Line that was recently approved. We now have roughly 50 employees working there and are doing over 97 percent of the work under TNDC or its partnerships.”
Currently, AltaGas is working to construct three micro-hydro projects that will generate electricity by capturing the flow from the Iskut River, McLymont Creek and Volcano Creek. That power will be transferred to an electrical substation near Bob Quinn Lake and the Northwestern Transmission line, a 287-kilometer power line to be built by BC Hydro.
“We’ll be doing most of the earthwork on the Forrest-Kerr project, and one of our joint venture companies will be doing all of the tunnel work as well,” says Adsit.
Ventures such as these provide multiple long-term benefits for Tahltan communities, above and beyond the obvious employment opportunities. For example, the Forrest-Kerr project will not only help provide the province with sustainably produced electricity, but it will also enable local businesses and communities to use green energy from the grid rather than diesel-powered generators, thus reducing the overall carbon footprint of the area.
Moving forward, Adsit expects stable work volume so long as the economy manages to steady itself. “We do have some more work lined up,” affirms Adsit. “We have work in Galore Creek with Nova Gold, Imperial Metals and Copper Fox Metals, so there will be a lot of mining activity, but our business is currently completely dependent upon that industry. The mining industry is very cyclical and it’s becoming harder than ever to forecast into the next year. As we move forward we need to consider how to evolve to foster more local stable employment and economic returns in this cyclical environmental.”
Honored to be an integral part of the future of its region and communities, Tahltan Nation Development Corporation will continue to implement its mandate to create jobs and participate effectively in the economic activity within the Tahltan territory.