11/14/2012 09:22 EST | Updated 01/14/2013 05:12 EST

Fracking Water Licence Process Angers B.C. First Nation

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A First Nation in northeastern B.C. is demanding the provincial government take more precautions before awarding water licences to companies for natural gas fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial practice that involves injecting water deep into the earth to extract shale gas. In order to break the rock and free the gas trapped inside of it, companies inject a combination of water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure.

Twenty water licence applications are currently before the government. If approved, they would allow billions of litres of water to be drawn from rivers and lakes each year.

The Fort Nelson First Nation says the wholesale giveaway of water to the shale gas industry must stop and is calling for five changes to how water licenses are studied and issued.

"We want to know and track the changes that we see, because at this point we have anecdotal evidence from our land users, and our elders and our trappers,” said Lana Lowe, the band’s lands director.

“But government and science don't listen to us because we don't have the rigorous methods that they require to make a decision.”

The band is prepared take legal action if its demands aren't met, said Fort Nelson First Nation chief Sharleen Wildeman.

"[Water] is the life-blood of our community,” Wildeman said.

“Our community has always used rivers to travel, and hunt and fish and gather food. And now it's coming to a time where the alarm bells are going off."

The provincial government says all water licence applications are put through a thorough scientific review and the Fort Nelson First Nation’s demands for reform are already part of the review process.

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