In many respects, the city of Kitimat is an iconic Canadian community. Situated in a wide, flat valley at the head of the Douglas Channel in northwestern B.C., it has, for the past 60 years, been home to one of the world’s great hydroelectric and aluminum smelting projects. A technological marvel when it was built by the Aluminum Company of Canada during the industrial boom that followed the Second World War, the project brought the modern world to a resource-rich wilderness and became the foundation of a prosperous frontier city.

More recent history, however, has been less kind to the Kitimat region. Technological advances mean the smelter, now owned by global mining giant Rio Tinto, no longer employs as many people as it once did. The businesses — methane, ammonia and paper — that followed it into the deep reaches of the province are no more. Kitimat is a community looking to re-stake its claim on the future. And there is a new prospect on the horizon: Calgary-based Enbridge has identified the community as the terminus for its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project to ship bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific coast and, potentially, new markets in Asia…

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