Majority of aboriginal communities sign on to Northern Gateway

Nearly 60 per cent of the aboriginal groups along the proposed route of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project through B.C. and Alberta have signed on to share in the ownership and profits of the project, Enbridge officials say.

The communities each agreed to take a share of a 10 per cent equity stake in the $5.5 billion project, meaning they will also get to share in the profits generated by the pipeline.

"The long-term financial benefits for participating as shareholders will be significant. Aggregate equity ownership is expected to generate approximately $280 million in net income to aboriginal communities over the first 30 years. Becoming an owner in this project means aboriginal groups are going to see significant cash flow within the first year of operations," said a statement released by the company on Tuesday.

The company say it will not be releasing the names of the communities for contractual reasons, but says half are located in Alberta and half B.C. and include both First Nations and Metis. It is estimated about 18 communities may have accepted the deal.

The deadline for signing on to the deal was May 31, but the project has yet to been approved by the federal government, which is currently conducting a joint environmental review with various agencies.

The communities were given money by Enbridge to study the pipeline project earlier this year.

The Northern Gateway project is a proposal by Canadian oil and gas company Enbridge to build two pipelines stretching 1,177-km between the Alberta oilsands and the West Coast. The Northern Gateway would have the capacity to transport 525,000 barrels of oil per day.

The $5.5-billion project would consist of two pipelines: one transporting oil in a westerly direction from Bruderheim, Alta., to the port of Kitimat, B.C., from where it would be shipped to international markets in Asia and the northwestern United States; and another carrying imported natural-gas condensate in the opposite direction.

The condensate is a toxic mix of liquid hydrocarbons that forms during the extraction of natural gas and is used as a thinning agent to dilute and help transport heavy oils like bitumen.

The majority of the pipeline would be buried underground, with the exception of a few water crossings where it is deemed safer to run the pipes above water.

The project would also include the building of a new marine terminal in Kitimat.