(Adds details, background, comments from provincial official, aboriginal leader)
By Ethan Lou and Alastair Sharp
CALGARY, Alberta/TORONTO, Jan 23 (Reuters) - A pipeline in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan has leaked 200,000 liters (52,834 gallons) of oil in an aboriginal community, the provincial government said on Monday.
The government was notified late in the afternoon on Friday, and 170,000 liters of oil have since been recovered, said Doug McKnight, deputy minister in the Ministry of the Economy, which regulates pipelines in Saskatchewan.
Oil pipelines are viewed by the oil-rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan as a critical lifeline to move crude to the coast, but they have drawn fierce opposition from environmental and indigenous groups.
The spill came seven months after another major incident in Saskatchewan, in which a Husky Energy Inc pipeline leaked 225,000 liters into a major river and cut off drinking water supply for two cities.
It was not immediately clear how the current incident happened or which company owns the underground pipeline that leaked the oil.
McKnight said Tundra Energy Marketing Inc, which has a line in the vicinity of the spill, is leading cleanup efforts.
“There are a number of pipes in the area,” he told reporters in Regina. “Until we excavate it, we won’t know with 100-percent certainty which pipe.”
Tundra, a privately-held unit of Canadian grain trading and energy conglomerate James Richardson and Sons Ltd, declined to comment but said it will issue a statement later in the day.
The incident happened in the lands of the Ocean Man First Nation 140 km (87 miles) southeast of the provincial capital of Regina, according to the province.
McKnight said the spill has been contained in the low-lying area in which it was discovered. Ocean Man Chief Connie Big Eagle said the spill was 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter on Friday.
Ocean Man First Nation has 540 residents, one-third of whom live on the reserve, Big Eagle said.
She said an area resident who had smelled the scent of oil for a week located the spill and alerted her on Friday. The chief said there are no homes near the spill but it is about 400 meters (1,320 feet) from the local cemetery.
“We have got to make sure that Tundra has done everything that they can to get our land back to the way it was. That can take years,” she said. “They have assured me that they follow up and they don’t leave ... until we are satisfied.” (Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Alan Crosby)