Oil and gas rights awarded in Peel watershed

The Yukon government has Ok’d oil and gas exploration in the Peel Plateau-Plain on Monday. AustroCan Petroleum Corporation will be paying…

The Yukon government has Ok’d oil and gas exploration in the Peel Plateau-Plain on Monday.

AustroCan Petroleum Corporation will be paying $2,280,000 for the right to explore the area.

An additional location was up for bid as well, but was not successfully bid on.

“Originally, there were three locations that companies requested,” said Energy Mines and Resources’ rights and royalty manager Debra Wortley.

“We took those out to a round of discussions with First Nations and government.”

The government also advertised in the paper and posted information online.

During the review period, with comments back from the public and various organizations, the government was able to identify sensitive areas and change the dispositions.

One of the locations was rejected outright and the remaining two were adjusted to avoid these sensitive areas.

“The main thing we identified were the key wetland areas,” said Wortley.

“Generally those are the areas that we removed, because the bulk of the comments that we received told us that those wetlands are very sensitive.”

A land-use planning process is currently underway in the region.

“We’ve submitted comments on the oil and gas disposition process,” said Peel Watershed Planning Commission senior planner Brian Johnston.

“And at this stage we don’t have any additional comments on this particular case, though I haven’t had a chance to seek comments from my commission.”

The draft plan for the region is not expected to be released until December 2008.

Even though the land-use planning process is not yet complete, development and planning can happen concurrently, said Johnston.

“The planning commission was great at putting together information and doing a preliminary analysis,” said Wortley.

“This is the first time we’ve had that kind of information available.”

The government has been working closely with the planning commission, she said.

“Our desire isn’t to put companies into an awkward position down the road, by putting them in an area that the planning commission may recommend be protected later on,” said Wortley.

“I can’t tell you how valuable the information was.”

The maximum length of the new permit is 10 years.

Through the initial term of six years the company may explore for oil and gas resources.

In order to extend into a second term or get a lease for the property, the company has to drill a well to prove that it found a producible amount of either oil or gas.

But before it does anything, the company will have to go through the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act screening process.

Both the Yukon Conservation Society and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society were unable to provide comment on the disposition.