(Reuters) - Aboriginal groups in the Canadian Pacific province of British Columbia said on Thursday they had formed a united front to oppose all exports of crude oil from the Alberta tar sands through their territories.
The declaration adds to the uncertainty over Enbridge Inc's planned C$5.5 billion ($5.4 billion) Northern Gateway oil pipeline, which would move 525,000 barrels a day of tar sands-derived oil 1,177 km (731 miles) to the Pacific port of Kitimat, British Columbia.
It could also affect an expansion of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Vancouver. The company is currently seeking commitments from potential shippers for the project.
Aboriginal groups, who refer to themselves as First Nations, say they fear the consequences of a spill from the pipeline, which would pass through some of Canada's most spectacular and mountainous landscape. They also oppose the idea of shipping oil from British Columbia ports.
"First Nations, whose unceded territory encompasses the entire coastline of British Columbia, have formed a united front, banning all exports of tar sands crude oil through their territories," more than 60 aboriginal groups said in a statement.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified the Northern Gateway, which would open up a new supply route to Asia, as important to the country's economic interests, especially after the United States last month imposed a delay on approving TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline, which was planned to take Alberta oil sands crude to Texas.
There was no immediate reaction from Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, who is a strong backer of building more pipelines.