Harper announces northern deep-sea port, training site

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday that a new deep-sea port and training site for the military will be created in Nunavut.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday the government will install two new military facilities in the Arctic to boostCanada's sovereign claim over the Northwest Passage and signal its long-term commitment to the North.
Resolute Bay is located near the eastern entrance for the Northwest Passage.

He said the Canadian Forces will build a new army training centre in Resolute Bay and refurbish an existingdeepwater port at a former mining site in Nanisivik.

"Canada's new government understands that the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: Use it or lose it," said Harper, who made the announcement in Resolute Bay.

"Today's announcements tell the world that Canada has a real, growing, long-term presence in the Arctic."

With a mid-summer temperature of 2 C when Harper spoke, Resolute Bay will be home to a new army training centre for cold-weather fighting that houses up to 100 military personnel.

The training centre will use existing government buildings, which will be refurbished at a cost of $4 million, said a government news release.

Harper, whomade the announcement with Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, also announcedan expansion of theCanadian Rangers by 900 members.

The reserve unit of the Canadian Forces patrols remote, isolated and coastal communities. There are roughly 4,100 Canadian Rangers in 165 communities across the country.

Former mine site of deep-sea port

Adeep-sea port to be used for military andcivilian purposeswill be built in Nanisivik, the site of a former lead and zinc mineon northern Baffin Island.

Nanisivik'sexistingport already has basic docking platforms and a fuel tank storage facility. Used by the occasional cruise ship and Canadian Coast Guard vessels, the port is near Lancaster Sound, the eastern entrance to the Northwest Passage.
Coast Guard ship Des Groseilliers at the port in Nanisivik. ((Patricia Bell/CBC))

Ottawa says it will cost an estimated $100 million to refurbish the port site. Construction is slated to begin in 2010, with an end date of 2015.

Heavy equipment operators are busy cleaning up the site of the former mine, which shut down five years ago. It's contaminated with heavy metals from more than 25 years of operation.

A spokesman for the mine's owner, Breakwater Resources, said contaminated soil has been removed from the port site.

"We've actually removed all the contaminated soil that was associated with the dock cell," said Murray Markle.

"There was some hydrocarbons there that we excavated last year, there was metal contamination in the soils. We're in the process of cleaning that up."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is greeted by Arctic Rangers as he arrives in Resolute Bay on Friday. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

Markle said the port is ice-filledin the winter but gets a lot of use in the summer.

"All the big cargo ships use it, there's 50 feet of water right at port side, so there's really not much of a limitation there. It is a deep-sea port," he said.

Denmark sends expedition to Arctic

Harper said both installations will help back up Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage— a claim disputed by numerous countries including the United States, Japan and the entire European Union.

The pressure ison Arctic nations because of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which gives them 10 years after ratification to prove their claims under the largely uncharted polar ice-pack. All but the United States have ratified the treaty.

Fuel tank storage facility at the Nanisivik port. ((Patricia Bell/CBC))

Denmark will send a scientific expedition to the Arctic on the weekend to try to cement its claim on the region. Led by Danish and Russian icebreakers equipped with sonar to map the seabed, the team includes 40 scientists, 10 of them Danish.

"We will be collecting data for a possible [sovereignty] demand," said expedition leader Christian Marcussen. "It is not our duty to formulate a demand of ownership."

Earlier this month, Russia sent an icebreaker to the North Pole to conduct scientific experiments and plant a Russian flag on the seabed, a symbolic claim to undiscovered oil and gas supplies, as well as undersea mineral riches.

Earlier this year, Canadian hydrographers were sent to Alert to complete underwater mapping research in support of Canada's sovereignty claim.

Russia, Canada and Denmark all claim they are physically connected to the Lomonosov Ridge, a 2,000-kilometre underwater mountain range that stretches to an area between northern Ellesmere Island and Greenland from Siberia.

With files from the Canadian Press