The chief of the Pictou Landing First Nation is hailing an "historic" deal with the Nova Scotia government that will see the province take steps to close the pulp mill waste treatment plant in Boat Harbour that's been the centre of protests.
The agreement in principle ends a blockade set up by protesters last week after effluent from Northern Pulp was discovered leaking from a pipeline running between the mill and the treatment facility.
"We will be at the table with the province to make sure the treatment facility will be closed as soon as possible," Andrea Paul, chief of Pictou Landing First Nation, said in a statement.
"I have the personal assurance of [Premier Stephen McNeil] and [Environment Minister Randy Delorey] that the province is prepared to spend whatever it takes to make this happen."
The First Nation said relocating the facility could cost $100 million.
The province is also welcoming the deal, which was hammered out during weekend meetings between the band council and Delorey.
"Building trust among the First Nations community and the broader Pictou area community is going to take time," Delorey said in a statement. "It will only grow as tangible action takes place. That's what this agreement is all about."
The government says it will introduce legislation by June 30, 2015, to put into law timelines to close the treatment plant. In return, protesters from the Pictou Landing First Nation have dismantled a blockade near the facility.
Band members met Monday to discuss the proposal. Delorey and the band council signed the deal in the afternoon.
Under the terms of the agreement in principle, the province also agrees to work with the band to identify nearby Mi'kmaq burial sites and promises to help protect them.
If the province cannot finalize a timeline to close the treatment plant, it will owe the First Nation $1 million, but only if the band bargains in good faith.
The leak in Northern Pulp's effluent pipe forced the mill to shut down last week. The pipe carries 90 million litres of pulp mill waste a day from the mill site at Abercrombie Point, under the East River, to the treatment facility at Pictou Landing.
Department of Environment officials said pumper trucks are vacuuming up the effluent from the broken pipe. Samples have been collected to check for pollutants, and the results from the lab are expected next week.
This is the second time in six years the pipe has leaked. It broke in 2008, causing a lengthy shutdown of the mill.