Active Energy Group Plc (AIM:AEG), the London Stock Exchange AIM-listed international supplier of industrial wood chip, timber products, and forestry management services, announces that it has entered into an important new joint venture agreement to exclusively commercialize in excess of 100,000 hectares (c.250,000 acres) of mature forestry assets in Alberta, Western Canada, which are expected to yield more than 20 million m3 of commercial standing timber.
The forests, located in Western Canada, are owned by three indigenous aboriginal groups: the Alberta Métis Settlements of Peavine, Paddle Prairie, and East Prairie.
The partners in the new venture include the three Métis Settlements, Grand Chief Ronald M.Derrickson of British Columbia, and Active Energy Group.
The Métis Settlements and Active Energy Group will each hold a 45% equity interest in the joint venture company, which will be incorporated in Canada and headquartered in Kelowna, British Columbia, with the remaining equity to be held by Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson.
The new venture represents a landmark arrangement for the Métis: it provides a mechanism for their rights and assets to be independently assessed and valued, and for them to receive a fair and equitable share of the proceeds from the commercialization of those rights and assets over the long-term.
Under the agreement, the Métis Settlements will, in exchange for their equity interest in the joint venture company, grant exclusive rights over all their forestry assets to the joint venture company; and, AEG will commit to commercialize those forestry assets in exchange for its equity stake.
The joint venture company will be allowed to enter into sub-leases with third parties for periods of approximately 200 years to facilitate long-term economic development for the Métis peoples, in collaboration with international investors and commercial partners.
The forests are primarily composed of prime mature standing hardwood (Aspen, Poplar) and softwood (Spruce, Pine, Fir) species. AEG will aim, with the active involvement of the MétisSettlements Board representatives, to ensure that sub-lessees and other partners adhere tointernationally-recognised environmental and sustainability standards, and the highest international forestry stewardship criteria.
All commercial transactions that the joint venture may enter into will include an obligation to provide local employment for Métis citizens, and a commitment to contribute to corporate social responsibility programmes which benefit Métis communities.
This substantial agreement has been promoted and overseen throughout the negotiation and agreement stages by Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson and Iner Gauchier, chairman of the PeavineMétis Settlement, with the support of Greg Calliou and Gerald Cunningham, respectively chairmen of the Paddle Prairie and East Prairie Métis Settlements.
To ensure fair and equitable participation for the indigenous groups in the management of the joint venture, it has been unanimously agreed that Grand Chief Derrickson will be appointed Chairman of the new company, and will be joined on the Board by three representatives from Active Energy Group and one representative from each of the three Métis Settlements that are party to the agreement.
Active Energy Group will make further announcements in due course as the project progresses to establish the value of, and to commercialize, the substantial forestry assets.
"In AEG, the Métis Settlements have finally found a partner with the experience, vision, and international network to enable them to properly and fairly commercialize their assets for the long-term benefit of their communities," said Ronald M. Derrickson, Grand Chief of British Columbia and Chairman of RMD Group.
Derrickson first became aware of Richard Spinks - Active Energy Group's CEO - through his work withLandkom International in Ukraine, where he successfully created a co-operative agricultural business that transformed the lives of many thousands of private land owners.
"Richard and I have been working together for the past five years to assemble a deal that finally gives the Métis an equitable share in the economic development of their forests," said Derrickson. "I know that it will set the standards and terms for further agreements with other Métis, First Nations, and Aboriginal groups across Canada to enable them to develop and commercialize their assets in an equitable and sustainable manner to bring long-term economic growth, employment, and stability to their communities and their peoples."
Spinks said the new venture is the result of many years of working closely with Grand ChiefDerrickson and the Métis leadership to structure an equitable arrangement that works for all parties, commercializes the forestry assets in a sustainable and environmentally-sensitive manner, and allows the Métis communities to actively participate in and benefit from the proper development of their lands and resources.
"AEG is delighted to be partners in this ground-breaking initiative, and my co-directors and I, two of whom will play a key role in the new company strategy and operations, are confident that our international timber industry and forestry management expertise and connections will ensure its success for current and future generations," said Spinks.