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The proposed Kitimat, B.C., LNG site.

JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail

Mining giant Rio Tinto Group has entered into an option agreement with joint venture company LNG Canada to lease or sell a wharf and land at the Kitimat, B.C., port where LNG plans to build a natural gas liquefaction plant and export terminal.

Financial details were not disclosed.

LNG Canada is a joint venture comprised by Shell Canada Energy, China's Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd., Korean affiliate Kogas Canada LNG Ltd. and Diamond LNG Canada Ltd., an affiliate of Mitsubishi Corp.

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Rio Tinto, which is modernizing an aluminum smelter in Kitimat, has been selling assets to reduce its debt since acquiring Canada's Alcan aluminum assets in 2007 for $38.1-billion (U.S.).

CEO Sam Walsh said the agreement will allow the London-based company to generate "meaningful value" from its assets by enabling LNG Canada to share the western deep-water port.

"This innovative approach will provide an expanded gateway for Canadian resources to worldwide markets, which has the potential to benefit the communities and economy of British Columbia," he said in a news release.

LNG Canada vice-president, Andy Calitz, said the agreement "represents the best opportunity to bring the liquefied natural gas industry and its benefits to the people and communities of British Columbia."

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