MacKay River project approved

The clock is ticking for Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. and joint-venture partner PetroChina to decide whether the Chinese company will snap up the entire MacKay River oilsands project, which recently obtained a green light from regulators.

CALGARY — The clock is ticking for Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. and joint-venture partner PetroChina to decide whether the Chinese company will snap up the entire MacKay River oilsands project, which recently obtained a green light from regulators.

Calgary-based Athabasca (TSX:ATH) said Wednesday the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment and Water approved the project on Friday. That milestone kicked off a month-long period for Athabasca and PetroChina to exercise a put-call option —essentially an exit strategy that was included in the 2009 joint-venture agreement between the two companies. Three scenarios may play out in the coming weeks, said Athabasca spokeswoman Heather Douglas.

Athabasca can “put,” or choose to sell its 40-per-cent interest to PetroChina. PetroChina can “call,” or choose to buy Athabasca’s stake. Or both companies may do nothing, and leave their partnership as-is. Athabasca’s board of directors is in the midst of deciding what to do, said Douglas.

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