Oil and gas exploration proposal draws criticism

The Yukon Conservation Society has raised concerns over a proposed 3-D seismic oil and gas exploration project at Eagle Plain.

The Yukon Conservation Society has raised concerns over a proposed 3-D seismic oil and gas exploration project at Eagle Plain.

The project would be the first of its kind in the territory, and would involve cutting a grid of lines at 240- to 480-metre intervals through up to 450 square kilometres of forest.

“It’s a bit of a wake-up call. There’s a lot of line being cut,” said Lewis Rifkind with the conservation society.

The group calls the proposal “a warning to Yukon people about what is in store if the territory is opened up for oil and gas development,” according to a press release.

Part of the society’s concern is that we simply do not know enough about Northern Cross Yukon’s plans for the project.

And indeed, the company has yet to finalize exactly where the project will be and what it will look like.

“We haven’t put precise Xs on the map,” said Richard Wyman, the company’s president.

Northern Cross is waiting on results from a well that is currently being drilled to determine where the seismic survey will be most valuable.

In the meantime it has submitted a broader application to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board covering a region of 700 square kilometres.

The targeted area will be selected from within that “broad area of interest,” said Wyman.

Seismic surveying is a method for mapping underground resources.

It involves detonating explosives underground and recording the resulting vibrations. It works like radar to determine the composition of what lies beneath the surface.

A 3-D project differs from a 2-D project in intensity.

While a 2-D project may cut only one main line and a few cross lines, with 3-D a comprehensive grid of lines is cut through an area.

Northern Cross has proposed source lines 240 to 480 metres apart with nine-metre drill holes at 60-metre intervals.

Each hole will be packed with one kilogram of dynamite.

The perpendicular receiver lines will be similarly spaced.

But seismic surveying today doesn’t scar the landscape the way it did in the past, said Wyman.

The wide, straight cutlines still visible at Eagle Plain were largely cut between 1955 and 1972, he said.

A more recent seismic project in the area by Anderson Resources Ltd. shows little lasting impact, said Wyman.

“I think that anybody going to visit the place where Anderson conducted its program, you wouldn’t even know where they were. And I think we should have a very similar result.”

GPS technology means that surveyors can achieve a reliable grid without using the straight lines of the past. Instead, trails can meander, avoiding larger trees.

“The lines aren’t going to be straight, not very wide, and it may not involve much brush clearing at all.”

The source lines are planned at three metres wide, and the receiver lines at 1.75 metres.

Wider access trails may be cut at five metres where access does not exist already.

The work will be done in winter, when snow cover will protect the ground cover from disturbance.

And recent forest fires in the area have naturally cleared much of the land, making further brush clearing and tree removal unnecessary, said Wyman.

Another concern raised by the conservation society is that the proposal does not address how the project will meet guidelines set out in the North Yukon Regional Land Use Plan.

The plan sets out a maximum linear disturbance (including roads, trails and cutlines) of one kilometre per square kilometre in the Eagle Plain zone.

Two questions unanswered by the proposal are, what is the current level of linear disturbance in the area, and how much will be added by this new activity?

The conservation society raised concerns that this exploration project could exceed the threshold, and that the question was not even addressed by the proposal.

But given the forest fires and existing trail network, “the additional footprint that would be new would be pretty insignificant,” said Wyman.

The question will be determined by the land use planning council, said Rob Yeomans with YESAB.

The council is currently working on dissecting the proposal to decide if it conforms to the land use plan.

The project should not be approved until these and other questions are properly addressed, said Rifkind.

“Can this project be done if there are enough mitigations? Well probably, but in the proposal that has been submitted, we don’t see that yet.”

YESAB will accept public comments on the proposal through June 27.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read