Canada's Nunavut Territory opens lands to exploration

Canada's new Nunavut Territory has opened a large part of its lands to oil and gas exploration and development.

The Northern Oil and Gas Directorate, Hull, Que., said nominations will be accepted until Jan. 29 for Nunavut tracts. If lands are nominated, in February it will invite companies to bid for exploration licenses.

The directorate said discovered oil in the Arctic Islands represents 5%, and gas 15%, of the remaining discovered recoverable resources in Canada. It said recent estimates are that the Arctic has 10% of the nation's conventional oil resource (discovered plus potential) and 23% of the gas.

The call area includes all of the Sverdrup basin. The directorate said there were 19 discoveries in the basin between 1969 and 1985, including a major gas field at Drake Point and the Bent Horn oil field. The latter produced light crude for 11 years between 1985 and 1996.

The directorate said, "There is high potential for further discoveries of both oil and gas, offshore and onshore. New exploration, production, and transportation technologies encourage the evaluation of new exploration ventures."

James Eetoolook, first vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Inuit organization that drafted the exploration agreement with the government, said the pact will protect the environment and the values of the Inuit people.

Olayuk Akesuk, Nunavut's minister of sustainable development, said, "This call for nominations marks the start of a new era of exploration in one of Canada's largest and least explored sedimentary basins."

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