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Northern Cross rules the plains

Northern Cross Yukon Ltd. won 13 of the Yukon government’s spring 2007 oil and gas disposition bids for a total of $20 million.

Northern Cross Yukon Ltd. won 13 of the Yukon government’s spring 2007 oil and gas disposition bids for a total of $20 million.

The company will own the exclusive rights to explore for and develop oil and gas deposits throughout Eagle Plains for the next six years, subject to government approval and licensing.

The rights can be extended for four additional years if wells are drilled.

The Yukon government won’t comment on how many competing bids were submitted by the June 27 deadline.

The largest bid Northern Cross put in for a single disposition, or oil and gas rights to a parcel, was $5.1 million.

“It is encouraging to see this level of investment in the North,” said Archie Lang, the minister of Energy, Mines, and Resources, in a news release.

“This is a major step forward for the growth and development of a Yukon oil and gas industry,” he said.

The contiguous rights cover 4,700 square kilometres and connect with the Dempster Highway south of the lodge at Eagle Plains.

Two of the original 20 parcels of land included in the Eagle Plains and Peel Plateau spring 2007 oil and gas disposition were removed in early May after the chair of the North Yukon Planning Commission informed the Yukon government that the parcels covered the Whitefish Lake Wetlands, an ecologically sensitive and key territorial wetland complex.

The remaining five parcels, including two located in the Peel Plateau received no bids, a spokesperson with Energy, Mines, and Resources said.

In April the department of Energy Mines and Resources decided that Northern Cross would be permitted to perform flow tests over a two-year schedule on three abandoned gas wells 60 kilometres southwest of Eagle Plains Lodge.

Though they drew on recommendations that emerged from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act process, the department’s decision to allow the company to pursue construction of an all-weather access road ran contrary to popular opposition.

Several First Nations and conservation groups joined with the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and Environment Canada in condemning the road.

They said they felt the road would enhance access and visibility for hunters and wolves into the endangered caribou herd’s winter range.

Critics also look unfavourably on the territorial government’s decision to pursue landscape-altering development decisions while the area’s land-use plan is in limbo.

“My understanding is that land-use planning for the area is largely completed now, and so can provide reasonable direction to the types of activities that should be allowed in any particular area,” Yukon MP Larry Bagnell wrote to the assessment board in January, on the topic of Northern Cross’ application.

The Yukon government can pursue economic development concurrent to the creation of the land-use plan under the terms of the final agreement land claims.

The senior planner working for the North Yukon Planning Commission said that the use of the Eagle Plains area for oil and gas does conform with uses set out in the soon-to-be-released North Yukon Land Use Plan.