Western Arctic Coal Exploration
In 2006, BHP Billiton signed a five year contract to conduct exploration activities in the Western Arctic.
In July 2006, BHP Billiton Energy Coal entered into an exploration agreement with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) to conduct a five-year exploration program on corporation lands in the Northwest Arctic. Coal deposits in the Northwest Arctic run from the Colville River north the Arctic Ocean (click here for map). The coal reserves in the area are thought to be the largest coal resource in the United States and one of the largest worldwide, with estimated reserves of 5 billion tons of coal underlying 30,000 square miles. BHP Billiton’s exploration activities were of bituminous coal beds located on ASRC lands south of Point Lay and west of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, bordered on the west by the Chukchi Sea. Exploration activity was restricted to these lands because ASRC holds both the surface and sub-surface rights.
In early 2009, BHP Billiton suspended all exploration activities, and in the summer of 2009, terminated its agreement with ASRC. The company indicated that the decision was based on the current economic situation. Thus, the company has moved from exploration to reclamation of the site. A reclamation application and plan are expected in late 2009 or early 2010 from the company.
Important Habitats & Ecosystems
There is a tremendous amount of coal in the western arctic. However, the region is also home to a variety of flora and fauna and a source of subsistence living for Alaska Natives. Animals such as the bowhead whale, bears, seals, caribou, and indigenous and migratory bird have depended on the region for thousands of years. Some of these animals serve as a source of subsistence living and fulfill cultural practices for communities such as Point Hope and Point Lay which would be heavily impacted by exploration in the region.
To learn more about the Western Arctic and the impact to the region from coal exploration, visit AlaskaCoal at www.alaskacoal.org
last modified Mar 26, 2010 05:14 PM