Oil and Gas Prospectors Head for Yukon Territory
Canada's Yukon Territory aims to start a new Klondike rush -
this time for natural gas, and oil too if there is any, in Canada's
vast northwestern corner next to Alaska.
The government in Whitehorse has issued an open invitation to
producers to go prospecting in all but virgin terrain.
Yukon Economic Development Minister Trevor Harding, describing
the action as "an exciting step" and "historic day" for the
Canadian north, called on the industry to stake drilling claims on
two frontier regions. Titled Peel Plateau and Eagle Plain, the
targets include a total area approaching 11,500 square miles
between the 65th and 68th latitude parallels just to the northeast
of the scene of the fabled Klondike gold rush.
Harding gave producers until June 15 to "nominate" parcels they
would like to bid for in an auction to follow (territorial
authorities urge all to check the action at
www.economicdevelopment.gov.yk.ca). A minimum bid of $1 million has
been established. But instead of cash, the Yukon government will
seek payment-in-kind in the form of work commitments. In an
interview, Harding and Yukon Oil and Gas Resources Branch director
Brian Love indicated the new rush will be much easier on the
participants than the celebrated endurance test in the Klondike
nearly a century ago. This time around, there is all-weather access
at least to stepping-off points into the prospecting frontiers, via
the Dempster Highway between Whitehorse and Inuvik, chief town on
the gas-rich Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories. The
invitation is the first time such prospects have been thrown open
anywhere in the Yukon in about 20 years. The action follows 1998
agreements transferring jurisdiction over natural resources to
territorial authorities from the federal government in Ottawa, and
between leaders in Whitehorse and previously resisting native
The arrangements have included setting aside
environmentally-protected areas in collaboration with the Canadian
Association of Petroleum Producers, as well as with native and
Although only 71 wells have ever been drilled in the
186,610-square-mile Yukon Territory, the results have long
tantalized geologists and the more adventurous side of the
industry. There are educated guesses that the region harbors oil.
But, like the Northwest Territories, the Yukon is believed to be
more gas-prone. Speculative projections - generated by a variety of
companies, consultants, the Geological Survey of Canada and the
National Energy Board - have rated the recoverable gas reserves
suggested by exploration so far at up to 16.8 Tcf.
The Yukon officials acknowledged the exploration areas are more
than 600 miles from the most northerly arms of the Canadian gas
pipeline grid in northwestern Alberta and northeastern British
Columbia. But the territorial government said it hopes to see
industry movement into the Yukon within the next three to five
years. Harding said there have been "quite a few" nibbles."
Gordon Jaremko, Calgary
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