‘Bit of a lark:’ Canadian miner files claim on disputed Arctic island

John Robins has filed and been granted a mineral exploration claim under Canadian law to Hans Island

A longtime mining geologist and developer has come up with his own solution to Canada’s long-running Arctic sovereignty dispute with Denmark.

John Robins has filed and been granted a mineral exploration claim under Canadian law to Hans Island — a remote pimple of rock between Ellesmere Island and Greenland that lies exactly on the international border.

“It was done on a bit of a lark,” said Robins, who’s involved with a number of Vancouver-based mining companies. ”The reason I applied for it is more just to stir the pot a bit.”

Hans Island, an uninhabited 1.3-square-kilometre knuckle of rock in the middle of the Kennedy Channel, has been the focus of a half-jocular, half-serious boundary quarrel between Canada and Denmark that began in 1973.

Back then, the two countries set out to draw a conclusive border between Ellesmere and Greenland — at the time a Danish territory. They couldn’t decide what to do about Hans and left it until later.

Later came in 1984. Canadian soldiers landed on the island, dropped off a bottle of Canadian whisky and erected the Maple Leaf.

Soon after, the Danish minister of Greenlandic affairs invaded. He left the Danish flag, a bottle of schnapps and a note that said: “Welcome to the Danish island.” Diplomats are silent on the fate of the whisky.

Canada’s then-defence minister Bill Graham visited in 2005, followed shortly by some Danish soldiers. In 2010, 64 Danish tourists landed and erected a cairn with the Danish flag.

The so-called whisky war goes back and forth. About a year ago, the two countries created a team to try to hammer out a deal to resolve the boundary debate once and for all.

It’s not Robins’s first attempt to beat back the Danes. In 2006, he filed a similar claim, which has since expired.

No valuable mineral deposits are known to exist on Hans Island, although the waters beneath are thought to have potential for oil and gas.

Robins said there’s a serious purpose behind his attempt to use an online mineral claim as a tool of conquest.

“Canada’s been very lax about pushing Arctic sovereignty,” he said.

He also wants to draw attention to what he calls the current government’s neglect of the Arctic — particularly the poor understanding of the vast region’s geology, the foundation of the mining industry.

“We rely on maps that are decades old,” Robins said. ”Often, they’re based on people flying over an area and looking out the window and saying, ‘Yeah, it looks like this rock type.’”

Nevertheless, Canada has a 2005 agreement with Denmark to inform that country about anything involving Hans Island.

Robins’s permit was granted Feb. 4. The next day, Canada let Danish officials know.

“The Canadians have reached out and we are in close contact with them,” confirmed Henning Dobson of Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia, said Robins’s claim is a welcome nudge toward settling an old dispute with a friendly country.

“He’s successfully drawn attention to the fact we have an unresolved territorial issue.”

Solutions are easy and obvious, Byers said. The countries could draw a line through Hans that connects the maritime border or agree to manage the island jointly.

“The only thing that is stopping them is concern about domestic politics. No government wants to be accused by its political opponents of surrendering sovereignty.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Swansong Ride2Survive raises $1M-plus in single-day cycle from Kelowna to Delta

Saturday’s ride was the 15th and final fundraiser of its kind for North Delta-based charity event

VIDEO: Surrey’s former Flamingo Hotel goes out with a bang

The Flamingo opened in July 1955 as a motor hotel with 20 rooms

Rocky Mountain high: Surrey’s Burzan picked in NHL draft by Colorado Avalanche

Guildford-raised forward was out for a drive when he heard the news

Queen Elizabeth students hit $100K in donations to Surrey Hospital Foundation

Secondary students have been raising funds for a decade through the Roots & Rhythms event

City hopes Surrey’s new energy centre will be ‘a window’ into sustainability

Facility’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

SQUEEZING SURREY STUDENTS IN: The causes and impacts of overcrowding in city schools

Special series: How growth is affecting students, parents and school staff alike – and what the future holds

Canadian communities responding to climate change

New research highlights state of local adaptation planning in Canada

Victoria woman in L.A. hospital after she was run over twice

Lynn Phillips has suffered from multiple broken bones and internal bleeding

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

Woman found after absence from forensic psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam

Barbara Tom was reported on an unauthorized absence from Brookside Treatment Centre

B.C. judge defies lawyers and adds six months to man’s sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Tiny Yorkshire terrier survives days on remote B.C. island

ROAM rescue crews, family searched for dog, missing in Greater Victoria for days

Man presumed dead after boat capsizes in Columbia River

Search and rescue efforts recovered a life jacket

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

Most Read