Northern Cross Yukon Ltd. says it hopes to start exploring for natural gas near the Dempster Highway as early as this winter, now that it has a licence to drill in northern Yukon.

Officials with the Calgary-based company say they have won the Yukon government's latest call for bids, putting up $150,000 to secure oil exploration rights to an area just south of Eagle Plains.

"We intend to, over the next few years, drill a few exploration wells -- some along the Dempster [Highway], some just off the Dempster," Northern Cross president Brian Avery told CBC News on Monday.

"We'll want to drill a few wells, and then take a recalibration time and see what we should do next."

Avery said his company, which already owns a couple of oil wells in northern Yukon, has the licences and permits required to drill several wells at the site, so it just needs to find enough money to start the work.

"These wells are relatively expensive, between $3 [million] and 5 million per well," he said, adding that the company is confident there is natural gas in the Eagle Plains area.

"We do expect to have success in drilling and discovery and developing natural gas," he said.

Yukon government officials say Northern Cross will have to work on its newly-secured claims over the life of its six-year lease.

Debra Wortley, the rights and royalties manager with the Yukon's Energy, Mines and Resources Department, said the company will have to carry out everything from "purchasing seismic information and re-analyzing it, to drilling a well.

"Should they wish to extend the life of the permit for an additional four years, they must drill a well," Wortley added.

Northern Cross is now looking for investors. Avery said the company could start drilling this winter if it finds the funding it needs.