Government to expand mineral mapping of Arctic

Tue Aug 26, 2008 2:17pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada plans to boost its spending on mapping Arctic energy and mineral resources, in order to encourage development and defend Canadian sovereignty in the far North.

The government will spend C$100 million ($95 million) over five years, building on a plan earlier this year to spend C$34 million over two years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday as he prepared to kick off a three-day trip to the region.

"We know from a century of northern resource exploration that there is gas in the Beaufort (Sea), oil in the eastern Arctic, and gold in the Yukon. There are diamonds in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and countless other precious resources buried under the sea, ice and tundra," Harper said.

"But what we've found so far is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg."

The mapping program will use aircraft with special sensors to create subterranean models, which could then trigger, by government estimates, C$500 million in private sector resource exploration and development.

The program is part of an increased emphasis the Canadian government is placing on the Arctic as global warming reduces the region's permanent ice cover and looks to open up the area to resource exploration and international shipping.

Ottawa says its Arctic policy is growing in importance in light of increased activity in the region by Russia and other countries.

"Use it or lose it, is the first principle of Arctic sovereignty," Harper told reporters. "To develop the North we must know the North. To protect the North, we must control the North. And to accomplish all our goals for the North, we must be in the North," he said.

($1=$1.05 Canadian)

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)