VANCOUVER, April 24 (Reuters) - Canada will meet a mid-June deadline for its final decision on whether to authorize the construction of Enbridge Inc's proposed Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline, a government minister said on Thursday.
"Of course we'll meet our deadline, there's a statutory deadline that we have to respect," Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney told reporters at an event in Calgary.
A federal review panel recommended in December that the pipeline be approved if Enbridge meets 209 technical, environmental and social conditions. That set up a 180-day review period for the government to make its final decision on the project.
Northern Gateway would carry some 525,000 barrels-of-oil per day from the Alberta oil sands hub of Edmonton to a deepwater port in Kitimat, British Columbia, where it would be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to international markets.
The project is supported by Canada's energy industry, which currently sells most of its oil to U.S. buyers at a steep discount to benchmark prices. It is fiercely opposed by environmental groups and aboriginals concerned about a potential oil spill.
As with TransCanada Corp's proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the United States, environmentalists also fear that Northern Gateway will hasten the development of Canada's oil sands and exacerbate climate change.
Kenney said that the Conservative government is doing additional consultation work ahead of its decision, in particular with aboriginal communities.
"We will approach final consideration of the (National Energy Board's joint review panel) recommendation on Northern Gateway in an objective fashion, based on the input, the evidence and the results of our consultations," Kenney said.
Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Tom Brown