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B.C., First Nation sign deal aimed at fast-tracking natural gas exports

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VANCOUVER - The B.C. government has struck a deal with the Haisla First Nation that the province says could help fast track a liquefied natural gas plant near Kitimat.

The agreement would allow the purchase or lease of land that will enable the Haisla to work with the industry to develop both the plant and an export terminal on Douglas Channel.

The deal is part of the B.C. government's natural gas strategy launched last year that would see three plants built on the coast to develop liquefied natural gas for export to Asia.

Aboriginal Relations Minister Ida Chong said the deal is the key to unlocking a whole new natural gas export industry in the province.

In its jobs plan, the government committed to having three terminals running by 2020, and said the plan could create more than 1,400 jobs and generate $600 billion in economic activity over three decades.

Rich Coleman, the minister in charge of natural gas in the province, said in a news release the agreement is part of the foundation for the government's jobs plan.

"Today's framework agreement is another step towards our goal of developing a liquefied natural gas industry which will create economic opportunities for our entire province."

The agreement with the Haisla would allow for the lease or sale of up to 700 hectares of Crown land near the Douglas Channel by the District of Kitimat, on B.C.'s northern coast.

Haisla Nation Chief Coun. Ellis Ross said the agreement gives the First Nation the certainty it was looking for around the government's LNG proposals.

"If we are able to do this, the Haisla people will benefit, as will all British Columbians and Canadians," he said in a news release.

When Premier Christy Clark announced the plan for three LNG plants earlier this year, she said the operations could contribute nearly $2 billion annually to provincial revenues.

The plan is to pipe natural gas from northeast B.C. to the coast, where it will be frozen and put on tankers for export to Asia.

The agreement follows an announcement earlier this week from Spectra Energy and BG Group about plans to build a natural gas pipeline from northeast B.C. to the coast, joining a throng of companies aiming to export Canadian natural gas to Asia.

Premier Christy Clark was in Hong Kong earlier this week to pitch the potential of B.C.'s natural gas exports.

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