Open letter to Richard Wyman, president of Northern Cross (Yukon) Ltd.
You have a dream. A dream wherein you extract the hidden treasures from the deep underground at Eagle Plains and hope that someday, somehow, somewhere, a pipeline will materialize to facilitate getting your product to market. A perfectly natural dream when in your line of business.
You are confident about the presence of large quantities of oil and gas in the area. Over the years you have increased your company holdings to 5,000 square kilometres. That is a sizeable chunk of our northern landscape and, if successful in your venture, we shall see an incremental but relentless industrialization of the Eagle Plains region over the next decades.
In an area where a cutline made half a century ago clearly stands out today, a full scale oil and gas project will have irrevocable environmental impacts as all-season roads spread and industry installations of all kinds mar the landscape. That’s the nature of the business; anybody who has driven the endless resource roads in the Fort Nelson area knows precisely what I’m talking about.
In January I attended your presentation at the legislature as well as the information session in June at the Yukon Inn. In your attempt to appease the public, you know what you need to say. However, what I became aware of are the things you prefer to leave out.
Applying positive spin by emphasizing things like “sensitivity to the environment” and “minimizing our footprint,” you talked about the pains you’ve taken to avoid making six kilometres of new trail or road someplace. But the roughly 4,000 kilometres of new seismic lines you cut this past winter, including some 225 km of access roads, somehow didn’t qualify for comment!
You projected a fuzzy iPhone snap taken from an aircraft of an old wide cutline being joined by a narrow wiggly line, and indicated that the latter is your standard today. Mr. Wyman, that’s deception in the extreme. In fact your company has cut many hundreds of kilometres of line virtually straight as an arrow, dissecting your exploration area into a tight grid with less than 300 metres between the lines.
You spoke with pride about how tidy you keep it around your drill rig but let’s not get distracted by trivia, the fact is that in the next phase of your project you hope to extend all-season roads to 20 new drill sites. As you acknowledged, there will be flare stacks. Welcome to northern Yukon – home of the bright winter nights.
You made a point of emphasizing that you do not expect to need hydraulic fracturing – probably a good thing given the widespread opposition to fracking in the Yukon. However, in January I noted that you expressed an interest in being able to frack should it prove advantageous sometime in the future.
Following your presentation it was time for the advertised Q and A, but you wiped that one off the table swiftly by stating that there wouldn’t be one. So much for that – and so much for the “honesty and integrity,” “open and honest discussion” and “timely information” highlighted on your posters.
If you were concerned that penetrating questions would steal your show and give you bad press you got away with it but amongst many in the audience you sowed nothing but distrust, not allayed by the availability of you and your staff for individual queries.
“When we are finished with our activities, we will return the land to its natural state,” said the writing on the wall. Easy to say and sounds good, but who are you trying to kid?
You are dreaming, Mr. Wyman, and may your dreams forever remain exactly that: dreams.
Thanks for the coffee.
Jannik Schou lives in Lake Laberge