Australian natural resources giant eyeing multiple green hydrogen projects in NL

A company headed by the second-richest person in Australia is ramping up its involvement in the sprint to produce green hydrogen and green ammonia in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fortescue Future Industries — a subsidiary of Fortescue Metals Group, founded by Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest — has signed an agreement with the Miawpukek First Nation to explore the feasibility of a project that would produce green fuels on Newfoundland’s southwest coast, from a process involving sea water and wind turbines.

“We believe this is a great step forward for us to collectively determine the feasibility of whether or not this project can be built successfully and meet the environmental and citizenry concerns that exist with such a build,” said Stephen Appleton, FFI’s top manager in Canada .

In June 2021, CBC News reported the company had an interest in a similar project at Labrador’s Gull Island. FFI says it is now moving on both projects, as well as on other clean energy projects in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

Chief Mi’sel Joe said the town has access to a decommissioned icebreaker in case of a need to evacuate. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

Miawpukek Chief Mi’sel Joe says it’s a big deal for his people — but only if it can be done without harming the environment.

“If this is something we want to do, given time with Steve’s company, we’ll figure it out,” Joe said Monday. “Nothing is going to be done tomorrow. First off, it’s got to be environmentally sound.”

The company has registered for an environmental assessment with the provincial government. Joe said it has to meet not only the province’s standards, but also Miawpukek’s.

The announcement came on the eve of a green hydrogen summit in Stephenville, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is welcoming the German chancellor and some of the most influential business leaders in Europe — including the CEOs of Bayer, Siemens Energy, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The Stephenville area is already the proposed home base for a project led by Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley, part of a business consortium known as World Energy GH2. The FFI proposal would operate in the same area, also encompassing Port aux Basques and St. George’s.

Multiple proposed projects in Newfoundland and Labrador would see wind turbines used to produce clean fuels like hydrogen and ammonia. (AFP via Getty Images)

Appleton said the company hopes to have its environmental impact assessment complete in the next two months.

When news broke of FFI’s interest in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2021, the company wasn’t talking. Appleton said they were watching the province with interest “from afar,” but decided to come forward with its intentions after the provincial government ended a moratorium on wind power this past April.

The parent company, Fortescue Metals, has a market capitalization of $52.8 billion and is one of the largest iron ore producers in the world.

Appleton said FFI is aiming to partner with Indigenous groups on each of its projects, and that they want to be “stewards” of the environment everywhere they go. That approach has been met with mixed results by FFI’s parent company when it comes to mines on Indigenous land in Canada and Australia.

Joe said discussions with the group have been positive so far, and he’s liked the approach the company has taken.

“When I look at truth and reconciliation, this is right out of the pages of those 94 recommendations,” he said, referencing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations for corporations to consult more with Indigenous groups.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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