Tuesday 23rd October 2018

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘alaska’

As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

September 10th, 2018
As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past an iceberg in Lancaster Sound in 2008.
(Photo: Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

 

by Edward Struzik | Queen’s University | posted with permission of The Conversation | September 10, 2018

I was aboard the 111-metre Russian research/cruise ship Akademik Ioffe when it came to a violent stop after grounding on a shoal in a remote region of the Gulf of Boothia in Canada’s Arctic. Fortunately, none of the 102 passengers and 24 crew members was injured. Chemical contaminants that may or may not have been pumped out with the bilge water seemed to be minor.

It could have ended up a lot worse. I was on the ship representing Yale Environment 360, which commissioned me to report on climate change in the Arctic and the research that scientists and students with the U.S. National Foundation-sponsored Northwest Passage Project were to be conducting on that three-week voyage.

It took nearly nine hours for a Hercules aircraft to fly in from the Canadian National Defence Joint Rescue Centre in Trenton, Ontario, 12 hours for another DND plane to come in from Winnipeg and 20 hours for a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter to fly over. By then we were boarding the Akademik Vavilov, a Russian sister ship that had come to the rescue.

As ice recedes, the Arctic isn’t prepared for more shipping traffic

Passengers aboard the Russian research/cruise ship Akademik Ioffe
watch a Canadian military aircraft fly overhead as they wait to be
rescued after running aground on a shoal in the Arctic.
(Photo: Edward Struzik)

Dangerous scenarios

Had the weather not worked in our favour and had there been thick ice such as the kind we had sailed through hours earlier, we would have faced a number of challenging and potentially dangerous scenarios.

Powerful winds could have spun us around on that rock, possibly ripping a hole into the hull that might have been bigger than the one that was presumably taking in the water we saw being pumped out of the ship. Thick ice grinding up against the ship would have made it almost impossible to get everyone off into lifeboats.

I had warned about a scenario like this in my book Future Arctic, Field Notes from A World On The Edge. Only 10% of the Arctic Ocean in Canada, and less than 2% of the Arctic Ocean in the United States, is charted. Only 25% of the Canadian paper charts are deemed to be good. Some of the U.S. charts go back to the days of captains Cook and Vancouver and the time when the Russians owned Alaska.

I’m not the only one who has been raising the red flag. Arctic experts such as Rob Huebert, Whitney Lackenbauer, Michael Byers and the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development have all highlighted the rising risks of shipping in the Arctic, and the formidable challenges associated with timely search and rescues and the staging of oil spill cleanups.

Groundings have increased

Since the catastrophic grounding of the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989, the list of groundings of fuel tankers, drilling ships, cargo ships and passenger vessels plying the waters of the North American Arctic has risen significantly.

Most notable among them were the cruise ship Hanseatic which ran aground in the Canadian Arctic in 1996, the Clipper Adventurer which ran aground in Coronation Gulf in 2010 and the Nanny, a fuel tanker that ran aground near Baker Lake in 2012 in an area where marine investigators say there is little margin for error. It was the fifth grounding in that area since 2007.

As sea ice continues to recede in the Arctic, it provides cruise, cargo and tanker companies with new opportunities, and emboldens small vessels to venture into uncharted areas. A recent analysis suggests that the average arctic ship route has moved more than 290 kilometres closer to the North Pole in the past seven years. Mines such as the one at Mary River on Baffin Island use ships to transport their ore. Bigger cruise ships such as the Crystal Serenity that sailed through the Northwest Passage with 1,000 passengers and 600 crew members in 2017 are beginning to test these opportunities.

No rescue ports

There are other factors portending future disasters. There are no ports in the North American Arctic from which to stage a rescue or an oil spill cleanup.

Icebreakers are few and far between. The U.S. Coast Guard has just one in operation. Canada has a few more, but many of them are well on their way to being decommissioned.

Weather forecasting capabilities are poor due to the shortage of meteorological stations and the increasingly unpredictable nature of arctic weather. Powerful summer storms such as the record-breaking cyclone that tore through the Arctic in 2012 are on the increase. Stable shorefast ice is letting go in unpredictable ways.

Our ship, for example, was forced to make a last-minute change to the starting route because of ice that was blocking passage into Resolute Bay. Recognizing the challenges, two cruise companies reportedly cancelled their expeditions this year on short notice.

There is a lot that can and needs to be done to reduce future risks. The Canadian government could compel ships to use forward-looking multi-beam sonar with Bluetooth technology. Charts can and need to be updated rapidly. More weather stations are needed. The dumping of bilge water should be banned. A search and rescue team should be seasonally based in a strategic part of the Arctic. An arctic port is needed sooner rather than later.

There is also a need to determine what impact future shipping will have on beluga and narwhal migrations.

There is time to play catch-up because there are few signs that shipping companies are in a hurry to exploit the shortcuts that the Northwest Passage offers between the Atlantic and the Pacific. But the number of partial transits will increase as cruise ships, mining companies and future oil and gas activity focus their eyes on the Arctic.

As things stand now, we are not prepared.

This article was originally published in The Conversation.

Related:

The Conversation

Reaching arctic mines by sea

September 10th, 2018

Operating in northern Canada often means creating your own transportation routes

by Greg Klein

Amid all the controversy over spending $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy a pipeline project whose $9.3-billion expansion might never go through, Ottawa managed to come up with some good, if relatively minor, infrastructure news. Rehab work will begin immediately on an idled railway connecting with a port that together linked Churchill, Manitoba, with the rest of Canada by land and the world by sea. Should all go to plan the private-public partnership would be one of just a few recent success stories in northern infrastructure.

Operating in northern Canada often means building your own infrastructure

The arctic Quebec riches of Glencore’s Raglan mine
justify an especially roundabout route from mine to market.

Denver-based owner OmniTRAX shut down Churchill’s deep-water port in 2016, blaming the demise of grain shipping through that route. The following year the company said it couldn’t afford rail repairs after a flood washed out sections of the line. Now the railway, port and an associated tank farm come under new ownership in an “historic” deal involving the Missinippi Rail Limited Partnership and the Fairfax Financial Holdings & AGT Limited Partnership.

“The consortium brings together First Nations and community ownership and support, along with significant private sector leadership and global investment capacity, and further, short line rail operation and shipping experience,” Ottawa enthused. As stakeholders heaped praise on the federal government, the source for much of the money seemed clear. But not even the purchase price, let alone details on who pays how much, have been disclosed.

Still the revitalization program, which could re-open the railway this coming winter, heightens the potential of resource projects in northern Manitoba and Nunavut’s Kivalliq region. As such, the apparent P3 success contrasts with a northern infrastructure setback to the northwest.

In April Transport Canada rejected a request to fund the bulk of a $527-million proposal to build another deep-water port at Grays Bay, Nunavut, along with a 227-kilometre year-round road leading to the territory’s former Jericho diamond mine. The Northwest Territories offered to build its own all-weather link, where a winter road now connects Jericho with three operating diamond mines in the NWT’s portion of the Lac de Gras region.

However the federal refusal prompted Nunavut to pull its support for Grays Bay. Undeterred, the Kitikmeot Inuit Association joined the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines at last month’s Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Iqaluit to argue the case for Grays Bay and other infrastructure projects. Chamber executive director Tom Hoefer said that with the exception of the NWT’s 97-kilometre Tlicho all-season road, the two territories have gone more than 40 years without government support for major projects. The last came in 1975, when Ottawa partnered with industry to build the world’s first ice‐breaking cargo ship, serving the former Nanisivik and Polaris mines in present-day Nunavut, he said.

With no power grids to our remote mines, [companies] must provide their own diesel-generated power, or wind in the case of Diavik. Being off the highway system, they must build their own roads—whether seasonal ice roads or all-weather roads. The ice road melts every year and must be rebuilt annually for $25 million…. Some of our mines must build their own seaports and all provide their own airports.—Tom Hoefer, executive director
of the NWT and Nunavut
Chamber of Mines

Hoefer compared the Slave geological province, home to deposits of precious and base metals along with rare earths and Lac de Gras diamonds, to the Abitibi. Kivalliq, he added, also offers considerable potential in addition to the regional operations of Agnico Eagle Mines TSX:AEM.

But while mining plays an overwhelming role in the northern economy, he stressed, it’s been up to northern miners to build their own infrastructure.

Baffinland’s Mary River iron ore mine co-owners ArcelorMittal and Nunavut Iron Ore want to replace their hauling road with a 110-kilometre railway to the company’s port at Milne Inlet, where ore gets stockpiled prior to summer shipping to Europe. Now undergoing environmental review, the railway would be part of a proposal to increase extraction from four million tonnes to 6.2 million tonnes annually and finally make the mine profitable. An environmental review already recommended rejection of the increased tonnage proposal, but the final decision rests with Ottawa. (Update: On September 30, 2018, Ottawa approved the increased tonnage application for a one-year trial period.)

The rail line, if approved in its separate application, could be in operation by 2020 or 2021.

That would make it Canada’s only railway north of 60, except for a CN spur line reaching Hay River, NWT, from Alberta and a tourist excursion to Carcross, Yukon, from the Alaska Panhandle town of Skagway. (Also connected by highway to the Yukon, Skagway provides year-round deep-water port facilities for the territory, including Capstone Mining’s (TSX:CS) Minto copper mine.)

Projected for production next year, Amaruq comprises a satellite deposit for Agnico’s Meadowbank gold mine in Nunavut. The company has built a 50-kilometre all-weather road linking Amaruq with Meadowbank’s processing facility and the company’s 110-kilometre all-weather road—by far the territory’s longest road—to Baker Lake. Interestingly that’s Nunavut’s only inland community but the hamlet has seasonal boat access to Chesterfield Inlet on northwestern Hudson Bay. From there, still restricted to the ice-free months, ships can reach Churchill or the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Also primed for 2019 gold production is Agnico’s Meliadine, 290 kilometres southeast of Meadowbank. The company’s 25-kilometre all-weather road connects with summer shipping facilities at Rankin Inlet, 90 klicks south of Chesterfield Inlet.

With its Doris gold operation only five kilometres from the Northwest Passage port of Roberts Bay, TMAC Resources TSX:TMR hopes to mine two more deposits on the same Hope Bay greenstone belt by 2020 and 2022 respectively.

But the most circuitous route from northern mine to market begins in arctic Quebec using trucks, ship, rail and more rail, then another ship. Glencore hauls nickel-copper concentrate about 100 kilometres by road from Raglan to Deception Bay, roughly 2,000 crow-flying kilometres from Quebec City. That’s the next destination, but by water. From there the stuff’s offloaded onto rail for transport to a Sudbury smelter, then back by rail to Quebec City again. Ships then make the trans-Atlantic crossing to Norway.

This is Part 1 of a series about northern infrastructure.

Related reading:

Fabled Klondike gateway sold to cruise ship line for US$290 million

June 7th, 2018

by Greg Klein | June 7, 2018

It’s been a local fixture for decades but a company that panders to pampered argonauts will officially take over the Alaska panhandle port of Skagway. This of course was the landing point for an earlier, much hardier breed nicknamed after Jason and his buddies of Golden Fleece fame. The Klondike argonauts also sailed storm-tossed seas but, while passing through this little town seeking gold, often got fleeced themselves.

Fabled Klondike gateway sold to cruise ship line for US$290 million

From frontier hellhole to tourist mecca,
Skagway trades on its Klondike connection.
(Photo: Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Such was the case when frontier bad guy Soapy Smith and his gang ran Skagway like a criminal fiefdom. They succeeded for a while, but it was right on the docks in 1898 that Smith and vigilante Frank Reid shot and killed each other. Their mortal remains rest in a graveyard on the edge of town.

Skagway was one of two main ports of arrival for the Klondike, along with Dyea, about five kilometres northwest. The latter town led to the Chilkoot Trail, where desperate hopefuls would make something like 50 trips of up to six hours each climbing to a North West Mounted Police checkpoint to carry supplies sufficient to survive a Yukon winter.

The rival route led to the White Pass, “a hellish place even for those inured to hardship and disappointment by having survived the different hell that was Skagway,” wrote Douglas Fetherling in The Gold Crusades. Railway construction began a few months before Smith’s death, with the line reaching Whitehorse in 1900. There, the White Pass and Yukon Route transferred its goods and passengers onto riverboats towards Dawson City.

In the 1950s the WP&YR became a world innovator by introducing the concept of containerized freight handling, loading the cargo from the world’s first container ship to rail at Skagway and then truck at Whitehorse. The distinctive containers can still be seen around Skagway, serving various purposes such as garden sheds.

The WP&YR’s fortunes rose and fell with those of the mining industry, recounted Marina McCready in Gateway to Gold. Competition arrived in 1978 from a new Whitehorse-to-Skagway highway. A mining slump shut down the service in 1982, but it reopened in 1988 to offer summer sightseeing excursions. They still run 110 kilometres between the little downtown and Carcross, Yukon, passing through a corner of northwestern British Columbia.

Today “dat tourist trap Skagway,” as a character in Ken Kesey’s Sailor Song called it, features numerous restored turn-of-the-century buildings, some of them transplanted from Dyea. Part of the town comprises the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, which in 1998 became an international site managed by both the U.S. and Canada.

From May to September the narrow docks host cruise ships magnificent for their stature but still dwarfed by mountains rising suddenly to the north and south.

On June 6 TWC Enterprises TSX:TWC announced an agreement to sell the WP&YR’s “complete rail, port and merchandise operations” to Carnival Corporation & plc for US$290 million. Debt estimated between $70 million and $80 million will be deducted from the price. TWC may take up to $84 million of the proceeds in Carnival shares. Expected to close by July 31, the transaction would put three docks and four cruise ship berths under a single cruise ship line.

The port also ships concentrate from Yukon’s only hardrock mining operation, the Minto copper-gold-silver mine held by Capstone Mining TSX:CS but subject to a purchase agreement with Pembridge Resources plc. Proponents of some would-be mines in B.C.’s Golden Triangle contemplate shipment through Skagway.

University of British Columbia research associate Murray Allan discusses the Yukon-Alaska Metallogeny project

September 23rd, 2016

…Read more

The northern enigma

September 2nd, 2016

UBC researchers help explorers better understand Yukon and Alaskan geology

by Greg Klein

They’re not necessarily the mob you’d find whooping it up in the Malamute Saloon. But the spell of the Yukon and neighbouring Alaska has attracted a unique collaboration of industry and academia with a mission—to unravel some of the geology that remains mysterious after more than a century of scrutiny. Demonstrated dramatically by Goldcorp’s (TSX:G) $520-million takeout of Kaminak Gold, the land of Robert Service, Jack London and countless TV reality shows still has considerable mineral wealth to be found.

UBC researchers help explorers better understand Yukon and Alaskan geology

Murray Allan (left), students Kathryn Grodzicki and Stephen Bartlett
take a break while mapping in Yukon’s Dawson Range.
(Photo: Murray Allan)

Joining the search are students and faculty from the University of British Columbia’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit. Catalysed by the discovery of the territory’s White Gold district, the group conducted its Yukon Gold Project from 2010 to 2012. They returned in 2014 with the current Yukon-Alaska Metallogeny project, partly inspired by the Kaminak discovery.

“We’re basically looking at everything from the Yukon-B.C. border all the way up to the Fairbanks area,” MDRU research associate Murray Allan tells ResourceClips.com. “It’s an enormous package of ground.”

The region includes Kaminak’s Coffee, Western Copper and Gold’s (TSX:WRN) Casino and Copper North Mining’s (TSXV:COL) Carmacks deposits, among other resources in the Dawson Range Mineral Belt.

Much of the work involves “digesting public information, assimilating already-existing data into coherent data sets that can be of value to companies when they’re deciding where to target,” Allan explains. “In parallel to that we’re doing our own field work, looking at areas that are poorly understood, sampling rocks, understanding the age and the controls on mineralization so companies can make much better technical exploration decisions.”

It’s “a huge, collaborative effort,” he emphasizes. “What we do relies 100% on the participation of industry sponsors and the exploration industry as a whole. Just as important is the relationship we have with the various government surveys.”

Last month the group collected a $557,670 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The project also gets $700,000 in direct and in-kind contributions from Kaminak, Sumac Mines and Copper North. The MDRU works closely with the Yukon Geological Survey and also with the national surveys of Canada and the U.S.

Kaminak president Eira Thomas credited the group with bringing “a high level of scientific rigour … to our geological understanding of the Coffee gold resource. This knowledge ultimately contributes to improved exploration and development planning.”

The region’s lack of glaciation presents challenges as well as benefits, Allan points out. There’s little rock at surface, so trenching plays a bigger role in early-stage work. On the other hand, soils have largely stayed put for an awfully long time. “For example, if a program identifies a gold anomaly in soils, almost certainly they’re very close to a bedrock source of mineralization.” That helps explain legendary prospector Shawn Ryan’s success in sparking the Yukon’s most recent gold rush.

Speaking of legendary, the Klondike gold fields sit within the project area. There, the lack of glaciation “led to very deep weathering of mineralized rock, which ultimately led to the efficient accumulation of placer gold deposits,” Allan points out. Probably 20 million ounces or more have been pulled out of Klondike creeks. Yet a bedrock source of gold that’s economic by current mining standards remains elusive.

UBC researchers help explorers better understand Yukon and Alaskan geology

Some of the Yukon-Alaska Metallogeny team
on a site visit to Kaminak’s Coffee project.
(Photo: Murray Allan)

“Up until now, despite lots of effort, there’s been no notable discoveries of gold in the ground. Either it’s a problem with the exploration methods or our understanding of what controls gold in the Klondike, or perhaps there’s a good geological reason why there might not be huge quantities of gold in economic concentrations in the ground,” he says.

“Our role is to understand what controls mineralization of any age and any style. That plays into the structural controls, whether faults of a particular orientation might be important, or whether a certain igneous rock of a particular age might play a role. We have examples of both. We’ve identified a large number of systems related to Late Cretaceous intrusions, for example, which we know are very fertile for copper and gold mineralization. But the White Gold district that kicked off in 2009, for example, has no intrusions to our knowledge that control mineralization there. The gold seems to be purely associated with faults.”

Having wrapped up 2016 field work last month, the group’s back at UBC, busy processing samples and compiling data. Their findings, often in the form of maps and data sets, go first to industry sponsors. That gives the companies a short-term advantage during a period of confidentiality. Then the info goes public, in a thesis or academic publication.

But even back in Vancouver, the spell of the Yukon remains.

“It’s an interesting role for us to play, doing modern, cutting-edge science in an area that has that industrial heritage,” Allan says. “I don’t think anyone working in that area would deny that’s part of the appeal. But the fact remains that there’s a lot of gold we know about, for example in placer creeks, but not much knowledge about the source of that gold. So there remains a huge amount of potential for hard rock explorers in that part of the world. There’s a very legitimate economic reason for investment and exploration in that part of the Yukon and Alaska.”

The MDRU returns to the field next June.

Program could cut Group Ten Metals’ Ontario exploration costs by 33%

July 12th, 2016

by Greg Klein | July 12, 2016

A rebate could save Group Ten Metals TSXV:PGE up to a third of its exploration spending on the Drayton-Black Lake gold project in northwestern Ontario. On July 12 the company announced the Junior Exploration Assistance Program approved a maximum $100,000 rebate. The provincial government’s Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the Ontario Prospectors Association sponsor the program.

Program could cut Group Ten Metals’ Ontario exploration costs by 33%

The company proposed a 20-hole, 2,000-metre drill campaign for the project’s Moretti area where historic, non-43-101 results averaged 18.65 grams per tonne gold in a 4,087-kilogram bulk sample and 14.1 g/t for an 8,069-kilo sample.

The property, partly staked and partly under option, sits 10 kilometres south of the town of Sioux Lookout in the vicinity of First Mining Finance’s (TSXV:FF) Goldlund project and Treasury Metals’ (TSX:TML) Goliath project.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is a provincial Crown corporation that invests in regional businesses. The Ontario Prospectors Association approves JEAP funding following a review of expenses submitted after early exploration work has been completed.

In the Yukon, Group Ten has Phase II exploration planned for its Catalyst PGM-nickel-copper project adjacent to Wellgreen Platinum TSX:WG. Group Ten holds three Yukon projects with the dominant land position in the Kluane Ultramafic Belt. The company’s portfolio also includes the Duke Island copper-nickel-PGE project on the Alaska Panhandle.

Criminal consequences

April 8th, 2016

As Blankenship plans an appeal, other miners in the U.S. and Canada fare worse

by Greg Klein

One year in prison and another on supervised release—six days apart from each other two American courts handed two former mining executives identical jail time. One ex-boss was implicated in polluting a river, the other in 29 mining deaths.

The latter, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, also got a $250,000 fine. The sentence came almost exactly six years after the underground explosion at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch coal mine operated by a Massey subsidiary.

As Blankenship plans an appeal, other miners in the U.S. and Canada fare worse

Widespread outrage greeted the sentence but the judge—a coal miner’s daughter—gave Blankenship the maximum penalty allowed for a misdemeanor of conspiring to violate safety regulations. In December a jury acquitted him of felony charges of securities fraud, lying to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and conspiring to impede mine safety officials. Convictions could have brought him 31 years in prison.

In the past Blankenship reportedly donated millions to friendly politicians and judges including, Bloomberg reports, $3 million to support a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals judge “who helped overturn a $50-million jury award against some of Massey’s units.”

John Grisham cited Blankenship as the novelist’s inspiration for The Appeal, depicting a ruthless Wall Street billionaire and his bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court judge. Grisham later wrote Gray Mountain, a fictional indictment of the Appalachian coal industry.

Alpha Natural Resources took out Massey in 2011 for $7.1 billion. Alpha eventually paid about $209 million for fines, restitution and mine safety improvements. The company also settled a securities class action suit for $265 million, as well as settling undisclosed amounts with 29 families.

Other former Upper Big Branch staff convicted after the disaster include superintendent Gary May, who got 21 months in prison, security chief Hughie Elbert Stover, who got three years, and Massey executive David Hughart, who got 42 months.

According to the United Mine Workers of America, 52 people died on Massey property under Blankenship’s reign. Still maintaining his innocence on the misdemeanor, Blankenship intends to appeal.

The week before his sentence, a federal judge in Alaska gave Canadian James Slade one year in prison and another on supervised release for criminal violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Prosecutors described Slade as the senior on-site executive of XS Platinum during the 2010 and 2011 mining seasons when salmon-spawning streams “turned muddy brown with waste water,” according to an earlier ADN story.

The company was extracting platinum from tailings on a former mine site near the Bering Sea coast of southwestern Alaska. Slade argued that his Australian supervisors refused his request to provide equipment that would have stopped the discharge.

But the ADN quoted the judge saying Slade “really had a choice, and when it became clear the two Australians were adamant about making as much money as they could and to heck with any pollution control equipment, he could have walked away from this job.”

Two Americans face sentencing after pleading guilty to related charges. Prosecutors declined to extradite the Australians, Bruce Butcher and Mark Balfour.

The British Columbia legislature has amendments pending that could impose $1 million in fines and three years in prison for Mining Act violations. Triggered by the 2014 Mount Polley tailings dam collapse, the new regs strengthen penalties currently capped at $100,000 and one year. But following a 2015 Vancouver Sun investigation, the paper reported that “no fines had been levied in the courts under the Mines Act since 1989.”

Notwithstanding the lack of Bre-X convictions, Canada might do more to deter fraud than other mining-related offences. In 2013 the Ontario Securities Commission slapped geologist Bernard Boily with a $750,000 fine and $50,000 costs for fraudulent assays that brought a class action suit against his employer. The previous year geologist John Gregory Paterson got six years for a nearly four-year-long assay-faking scam.

From carbon tax to blood tax

March 23rd, 2016

Canada should reject American hypocrisy and Saudi blood oil, says Stewart Muir

by Stewart Muir, posted with permission of Resource Works

Next Page 1 | 2

Don’t miss a new PBS exposé out March 29 featuring human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, which sold $100 billion worth of crude oil to Canada between 2012 and 2015. Those who have seen the documentary say the footage is shocking to behold.

It’s a mystery why Canada is content to import billions in blood oil from Saudi Arabia while at the same time pursuing policies at home aimed at eliminating Canadian oil from the market.

Canada should reject American hypocrisy and Saudi blood oil, says Stewart Muir

Which world leaders would be happy to
see Canada stop producing its own energy?
(U.S. White House photo by Pete Souza)

Just before Christmas, the Saudis beheaded Filipino Joselito Lidasan Zapanta because he could not pay a ridiculous $1-million fine.

Policies aimed at curtailing western Canadian energy development will only make us more dependent on bloodthirsty Saudi oil, while eliminating tens of thousands of our best-paying jobs.

If we are content to let eastern Canada source its oil from a country that executes citizens who question the government, and at the same time sell armaments to Saudi Arabia, what does that say about our own democratic system?

Yet if Ottawa has any particular concern over the soaring suicide rate among Canadian oilpatch workers, that would be news to me.

For those who don’t believe you have to give up the economy to save the environment, the resulting question is simple: What is the way to stand up for Canadian families and stop rewarding Saudi princes for their despicable practices?

One practical step we can take today is simply to ensure that every Canadian policy on fossil fuels applies equally to all of our energy imports.

Until 100% of our imported products are in compliance, no Canadian products should face domestic prejudice.

I understand we need international trade, but Ottawa’s eagerness to source oil from a savage regime while taking measures to curb the oilsands remains a sore point with me.

One possibility is imposing a blood tax, much like a carbon tax, that rewards social responsibility. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our parliament and our courts provide a yardstick that we could use to measure others against.

Obama’s Arctic vision and what we could learn

On a similar topic, last week saw a major existing supplier of Canadian oil take strides to massively increase its own oil production. I’m talking about the United States and its decision to pursue a long-term exploration plan for the high Arctic.

Come again? Isn’t U.S. President Barack Obama a climate crusader working hard to end the burning of hydrocarbons and stop Canada from building pipelines?

No, actually, he’s not. In case you thought moral suasion from Canada on addressing climate change was having any effect whatsoever on the U.S., think again. The fact is, the U.S. is obsessed with its own energy security and there is no way it will jeopardize a long-term supply of the fossil fuels that provide about 80% of its needs.

Canada should reject American hypocrisy and Saudi blood oil, says Stewart Muir

(Image: Resource Works)

Last week’s news from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will result in new oil and gas leases off the coast of Alaska. The map of the area that could be opened to drilling includes offshore territory Canada claims as its own.

Why is the U.S. doing this now? Simple: because Americans have a long-term plan for energy.

“If development starts now, the long lead times necessary to bring on new crude oil production from Alaska would coincide with a long-term expected decline of U.S. Lower 48 production,” reported the National Energy Council, which advises the U.S. government. “Alaskan opportunities can play an important role in extending U.S. energy security in the decades of the 2030s and 2040s.” (See page 13 of the report.)

So while the U.S. is taking pragmatic steps for long-term viability as an energy-intense nation state, in Canada we seem to be at risk of basing energy planning on “100% carbon-free” slogans that appeal strongly to some voters. The March 22 federal budget was heavy on climate and clean-energy promises that require (and deserve) focus. Yet as the budget also recognizes, our national future depends on the ability to evolve and improve the solutions we already have in place.

A National Energy Council for Canada

Much work is now required for Canada to figure out what it means to look for new ways to “expand and green” the economy and create opportunities for citizens. For now, the lack of a coherent Canadian energy strategy also means, as CBC pointed out last week, that questions are being raised as to whether U.S. energy development in the north threatens our very sovereignty.

Americans are no fools. They know that the longer time frame required for arctic projects is the result of remoteness, long supply chains, short exploration seasons due to ice, regulatory complexity and potential for litigation. The Americans know that it can take more than 30 years to line up all the necessary success conditions and that’s why they are getting cracking now.

In Canada, we also have the potential to ensure that beneficial energy sources, ones that will be subject to unwavering environmental controls, are developed.

What we totally lack is a coherent national political vision—one that acknowledges the need to green our energy supply and lower our impact on the planet, one that also recognizes the economic realities of the present day.

An attempt at a national energy strategy, developed by the premiers at the Council of the Federation, represents a weak vision compared to the clear path that American energy planners are following. Placing national sovereignty far down the list of priorities is not a mistake that other countries are making today. Also unlike most countries, Canada occupies an enormously privileged position when it comes to the natural assets it possesses.

Last week, the National Energy Board reported that a heretofore wallflower of Canadian natural gas plays, the Liard Basin, is suddenly the belle of the ball. This source of gas (the cleanest fossil fuel) now turns out to be one of the biggest in the world. It straddles the Yukon, B.C. and the NWT. The upgraded estimates say the Liard has enough natural gas to meet Canada’s needs at 2014 levels of consumption for nearly 70 years. Meantime, the NWT is sitting on 200 billion barrels of oil identified in two NWT shale formations alone.

Next Page 1 | 2

Group Ten Metals completes Yukon field program, expands PGM-nickel-copper turf

March 1st, 2016

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2016

Still growing its northern presence, Group Ten Metals TSXV:PGE has staked additional ground for the Spy project in southwestern Yukon. That increases the platinum group metals-nickel-copper property by 1,250 hectares to total 3,135 hectares, the company announced February 29.

Group Ten Metals completes Yukon field program, expands PGM-nickel-copper turf

Assays are pending from a sampling program
on Group Ten Metals’ expanded Spy property.

Group Ten optioned 100% of the first claim block in September for 1.05 million shares over three years and a 3% NSR. With funding assistance from the Yukon government, the company then conducted silt and rock sampling, prospecting, mapping and reinterpretation of previous geophysics. Once assays arrive, they’ll be integrated with the geophysical reinterpretation to define targets for trenching and possibly drilling.

Historic, non-43-101 grab samples returned grades as high as 75.8 grams per tonne platinum, 7.9 g/t palladium, 7 g/t gold, 2.6% nickel and 10.45% copper, Group Ten reported.

Spy comprises one of three road-accessible Group Ten projects in the 600-kilometre-long Kluane Ultramafic Belt, stretching from northern British Columbia through the Yukon into southern Alaska. Roughly 40 kilometres north of Spy sits Group Ten’s flagship Catalyst project, which borders on three sides the Wellgreen PGM-nickel project, where Wellgreen Platinum TSX:WG completed a preliminary economic assessment last year. Group Ten’s Ultra project sits south of Spy.

In September the company also picked up the Duke Island copper-nickel-PGE project on the Alaska Panhandle for two million shares and a 1% NSR. In western Ontario Group Ten holds the Black Lake/Drayton gold project.

MOU offers Americans scrutiny over B.C. mining projects

November 25th, 2015

by Greg Klein | November 25, 2015

British Columbians and Alaskans will seek involvement in each other’s mining proposals following a memorandum of understanding signed November 25. The MOU calls for governments and natives to take part in environmental assessment and permitting processes in their neighbour’s jurisdiction. But with an emphasis on trans-boundary waters, which mostly would consist of rivers and streams originating in B.C., Canadian projects might get more scrutiny than those next door.

B.C.-Alaska MOU pledges cross-border co-operation on mining and environment

The memo follows visits by B.C. mines minister Bill Bennett and Alaska lieutenant-governor Byron Mallott to each other’s turf. Bennett’s trips, following the tailings dam collapse at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley mine, tried to reassure Alaskans about B.C. environmental practices.

In August 2014, just weeks after the disaster, Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources asked Canada’s Environmental Assessment Agency for participation in the approval process for Seabridge Gold’s (TSX:SEA) KSM gold-copper project near the state border. Provincial approval had already been granted the previous month. The federal permit came through last December.

Other prominent projects in B.C.’s northwestern corner include:

  • Galore Creek, a NovaGold Resources TSX:NG/Teck Resources TSX:TCK.A and TCK.B copper-gold-silver project that reached pre-feasibility in 2011

  • Schaft Creek, a Copper Fox Metals TSXV:CUU/Teck copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project that achieved feasibility in 2013

  • Chieftain Metals’ (TSXV:CFB) Tulsequah Chief zinc-copper-gold project, now permitted for construction

  • Pretium Resources’ (TSX:PVG) Brucejack gold-silver project, slated for 2017 commercial production

  • Imperial’s Red Chris copper mine, which achieved commercial production in July

The MOU sets no timeframe for achieving its goals. Money for the cross-border initiative would come from existing government budgets, with the possibility of additional “alternate public or private sector funding.”