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Canada gives environmental nod to CNOOC offshore oil project

China National Offshore Oil Corp. has been granted environmental approval by Canada's government to drill for oil in the Flemish Pass region off Newfoundland and Labrador.

The project approximately 400 kilometers offshore does not pose a risk of significant adverse environmental effects if proper mitigation procedures are followed, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said in a Dec. 18 statement. The government attached 101 conditions to its approval of the assessment. The project still requires approval from other federal and provincial regulators before it can proceed.

China National, a state-backed company known as CNOOC, bid C$300 million for two exploration licenses offered by the province and Canada's federal government. The conditions include measures to protect fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, the use of lands and resources by Indigenous peoples, and species at risk. The government estimates the project will create between 100 and 200 jobs.

"We know how important the offshore is for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador," Seamus O'Regan, Canada's natural resources minister, said in the statement. "These exploration projects create good jobs, while ensuring the environment continues to be protected at the highest level."

Some of the world's biggest oil companies have interests in projects off the east coast of Canada, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Equinor Energy AS, Husky Energy Inc. and Suncor Energy Inc. CNOOC also holds interests in Canada's onshore oil sands developments.