(Reuters) - Enbridge Inc said on Tuesday that 60 percent of the aboriginal communities living on the route of its proposed C$5.5 billion ($5.3 billion) Northern Gateway oil pipeline have agreed to accept an equity stake in the project.
The company said that half of the communities that signed up for a piece of the 10 percent equity stake on offer are in British Columbia and half in Alberta.
The company is looking to secure native backing for the controversial line, which looks to carry 525,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude from Edmonton, Alberta, to a deepwater port at Kitimat, British Columbia.
Opposition from environmental groups and British Columbia First Nations, due to concerns about possible oil spills, has led to prolonged regulatory hearings for Northern Gateway and delayed construction of the line.
Enbridge has not released the names of the communities that have signed up for a stake in the line. Many of British Columbia's First Nation aboriginal groups have publicly opposed the project and none have gone on record in support of Northern Gateway.
The line, which Enbridge expects to be in service by 2017, would allow Canadian oil producers to tap high-paying Asian markets. It has the backing of the Canadian government, which has said the project is in the national interest even as regulatory hearings proceed.
Enbridge expects the stake to generate C$280 million in net income over the next 30 years.
Enbridge shares were up 2 Canadian cents to C$39.36 by midafternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Scott Haggett; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Bob Burgdorfer