Explorers gobble up Nunavut
The annual start date when firms and individuals can apply for the permits remains Dec. 1, so the race is already on.
"People were outside a few weeks before hand," said Spencer Dewer, manager of lands administration with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) in Nunavut.
But exactly who those people are, their numbers, and what areas they are interested in, is confidential until Feb. 1, he said.
People have until Dec. 31 to apply again this year, but if claims are physically staked before the end of January on the same piece of land, the stakes in the ground take precedence. Which is in part why details about the applications are confidential.
"Mineral exploration is one of the drivers of Nunavut," he said.
The economy depends on this initial step in mining that fuels demand for helicopter charters, catering services, accommodations and a host of other services.
And that's long before a mineral-rich piece of property ever becomes home to a producing mine.
"It's a first step that is a reflection of interest - and interest is good," he said.
Last year, DIAND received applications for 1,578 prospecting permits in Nunavut and issued 1,136 covering more than 47 million acres.
Generally, companies interested in working in the North over the last few years are looking to Nunavut, said Mike Vaydik, general manager of the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.
"People are encouraged that land claims are settled and the regulatory regime seems to be functioning relatively smoothly there," he said.
Interest in the NWT continues to be strong, but numbers appear to be down from last year, he said blaming uncertainty over a pair of unsettled land claims.
Last year no permits were issued for the Deh Cho without any warning or compensation for the people who stood in line for weeks, he said.
"That tended to make everyone a bit nervous this week," he said.
"Also, a day or two before the Dec. 1 opening, we got an indication from DIAND that there would be areas of the Akaitcho where no permits would be issued, but yet we were given no maps so we didn't know where those areas were."
Akaitcho First Nations are reportedly preparing to use legal action to stop the federal government from issuing permits in the areas related to its unsettled claim, he said.
Prospecting permits south of the 68th parallel are for three years, but to the north they're good for five, said Dewer.
A $25 application fee is required for the permit, as well as a refundable 10-cent-an-acre deposit.
If sufficient work is done on the permit block, that deposit is given back. If not, it goes to the Receiver General of Canada.