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Soapstone shortage could be solved

Brent Reaney
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jan 24/05) - An answer to Iqaluit's soapstone shortage may lie about 100 kilometres northwest of the city, but it will take a lot of work before the stones can be quarried.

Iqaluit currently gets its stone from a coastal quarry site between Cape Dorset and Kimmirut.

A temporary closure of that site for safety reasons in September 2004 has left the city without soapstone, at least until this summer.

Discovered in 1998 during a Geological Survey of Canada mapping project, the site has only been visited once.

With the new site located 100 kilometres inland, it would be difficult to get the stone into the city, according to Michael Hine, vice-president of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

At least $20,000, access to a helicopter, an assortment of tools and people willing to work would be needed before the site is even close to being quarried, Hine said.

To make the trip worthwhile, quarriers would have to stay overnight and tents would have to be set up.

"At the end of the day, you're going to have to bring in some equipment," Hine said.

Having visited the site in 1998, Hine says it's large, with good potential for quality stone, though a few weeks of prospecting would help verify the initial findings.

A couple of stones were brought back for carvers to work on, but "a couple of pieces versus enough to keep the place supplied are two different things."

If the money was found and prospecting began this spring, Hine says the site could be producing stone by the fall.

"It could get done, but it would take an amount of time, money and effort from a number of parties - principally carvers."

Federal and territorial grant programs may be available to help get the site operational.

In response to the need for an adequate supply of soapstone across the territory, the Government of Nunavut wants to develop a list of potential stone quarry sites.