Sahtu excited by
oil and gas potential

Exploration bids could reach millions

by Mark Sproxton
Northern News Services

NNSL (DEC 06/96) - Renewed interest in the oil and gas deposits of the central Mackenzie Valley could take the region back to the boom times of the 1970s.

"This is going to spread to the whole NWT," said Frank Pope, manager of the Mackenzie Great Bear Development Impact Zone. "The announcement's been received with great joy and anticipation."

Calls for exploration bids on 11 parcels of land were launched Nov. 30 by Ottawa.

In the same area in the past two years, industry pledged to spend almost $14 million exploring for oil and gas on seven sections of land.

But training and education must continue for Northerners to take advantage of job and career opportunities, said Pope.

"If we have 11 different companies working at the same time, we can't handle that," he said.

"And we don't want people quitting school and going to work for three to four months on the winter operations."

In the Sahtu region, Pope and his economic development organization have been working with industry to identify positions for which Northerners can be trained to replace the southerners who typically occupy them.

With funding from the Sahtu Pathways training group and training conducted by Western Geophysical, a Calgary-based seismic company, 15 Sahtu residents recently completed training as seismic drilling rig operators and/or seismic blasters.

The eye to training doesn't end there, Pope added. "We're trying to react to future needs too," he said.

In conjunction with the Pathways group, the economic development organization is recruiting for 14 openings on a drilling rig training program in Nisku, Alta.

The bidding period on the 11 parcels of land that total over one million hectares ends May 1. Either the Gwich'in or Sahtu are surface owners on some of each parcel.