In Nunavut, Harper pledges $100M for geomapping scheme’s second phase
GEM program hopes to cover the entire North by 2020
(updated at 5:40 p.m.)
While in Rankin Inlet Aug. 22, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced what a government news release called “significant new support for geo-mapping in Canada’s North, which will promote resource exploration in the region” — a second phase for Natural Resources Canada’s Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals or GEM program.
Between 2013 and 2020, Ottawa will spend $100 million on the scheme, which uses various methods and tools to look at the geology of an area and establish which geological formations have the highest likelihood of containing mineral resources.
Harper first announced the first five-year GEM program, worth $100 million, in 2008. That program ran until this year.
Harper’s announcement of continued government support for the GEM program was accompanied by the release of 32 new products “that will help unlock the mineral and energy potential in Nunavut, with a considerable focus on the Kivalliq region.”
These comprise “the first new geo-science information to be made available for these areas in over 50 years” a backgrounder on the announcement said.
“Our government is working to ensure that northerners and all Canadians benefit from the tremendous natural resources in the territories. Our investment in resource exploration will continue to unlock the full economic, mineral and energy potential of the region, while generating new government revenues, private sector investment and jobs,” Harper said in the news release.
“This critical knowledge will also help northerners make informed decisions about land use and preserve our northern environment.”
Since 2008, the GEM program has produced more than 700 maps and reports, “providing the exploration industry with valuable tools to explore Canada’s North,” the backgrounder said.
In its second phase, GEM will develop geological maps and data sets that will completely cover Canada’s North by 2020.
These geo-maps will be made accessible to industry investors, land use planners, governments and community agencies to provide information about resource exploration and development, the backgrounder said.
The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines was quick to praise Harper for extending the geo-mapping program.
“At one third the area of Canada, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are the two most under-mapped jurisdictions in the country,” said Cathie Bolstad, president of the Chamber of Mines, in an Aug. 22 news release. “The Prime Minister’s announcement to modernize geoscience information will really help our industry to efficiently focus exploration attention and dollars in areas more likely to host economic mineral deposits, thus increasing the probability of discovery. This will help us sustain the great benefits our industry is providing to the North.”
But Greenpeace condemned the move: “by funding this geo-mapping program, the Harper government is using taxpayers’ money to further subsidize the oil industry — one of the richest and most polluting industries in the world,” said Kiera Kolson Greenpeace Arctic outreach campaigner and member of the Dene Nation.
“He is encouraging oil companies to drill in Arctic waters, where spills are inevitable and the damage irreversible. Instead the government should invest in climate change mitigation in the North, where the effects are harshest, and in developing renewable energies and promoting energy efficiency.”