There’s coal in them there hills

Vancouver company hopes to develop mines on Ellesmere Island


As Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Nunavut to promote Canadian sovereignty in a region that seems perpetually poised for a boom, one mining company is hoping to develop a major hydrocarbon energy source right on the edge of the northwest passage.

Vancouver-based Weststar Resources Corp. has acquired licences to mine coal in the Strathcona Fiord and Fosheim Peninsula areas of western Ellesmere Island.

The Strathcona property is approximately 160 kilometers southeast of the Eureka weather station. The Fosheim property is about 25 kilometers east of the station.

Both are underlain by coal-bearing strata of the Tertiary Eureka Sound Group, which some researchers say contains “the greatest potential for coal deposits” of any area in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Weststar hopes to develop what it calls a “tidewater coal operation,” with coal destined for European and possibly Asian markets.

Many people consider coal a dirty fuel, as its use in electricity production contributes significantly to the greenhouse gases that are the major cause of global climate change.

Some jurisdictions are trying to cut back on their use of coal, although others increasingly see it as a more abundant, long-term alternative to oil.

The potential coal developments are “still a work in progress,” said Weststar spokesperson Nav Dhaliwal. “All in all, it looks promising, but we need to get up there to do more work to define what we have.”

The company is applying for permits for next summer to do some exploratory drilling in the two areas, covering 267,645 acres and eight licences. Weststar has 13 more licences still under application and pending approval.

The company acquired an 80 per cent interest in the coal licences, formerly belonging to the Hunter Exploration Group.

Weststar uses modern geological science to re-evaluate historical known coal discoveries with a view to re-activating and developing them.

“This is the last frontier,” Dhaliwal said, “so we want to make sure everything is looked after. Right now we are getting into further discussions with each party and political level. We are trying to get direction on what they need to see from us so we can make sure we’re following correct procedures.”

He added that “all indications point to a warming climate, and there are corporations in this world who have already built ships capable of crossing the passageway.

“We see this as the next major shipping lane, and it will shave 7,000 km off transporting goods” between the east and west coasts of North America.

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