During the last 50 years, the international petroleum industry has been faced with the fact that oil and gas have seldom been found close to the main industrial consumption centers of the world. It appears that the richest petroleum deposits occur in remote or difficult areas such as the deserts of the Middle East, tropical jungles, beneath the rough waters of the North Sea, and now in the Canadian Arctic.
In fulfilling its task of finding and producing petroleum, this industry has frequently had to solve difficult logistical and technical problems, along with the many problems involved in dealing with a wide variety of governments and minority groups around the world. In general, the petroleum industry has been successful in dealing with these problems and has built up considerable expertise in handling the many social and political problems that always surround petroleum development.
In the cases where the industry has not been successful, the costs are high. The fact that Shell and B.P. were unable to reach agreement with the minority of Biafrans in Nigeria resulted in the loss of millions of barrels of oil production and the destruction of most of the companies' installations. Caltex incurred considerable losses in Indonesia when the population of Sumatra began a fight for independence against the Indonesian government. The Palestinian problem has obviously had an enormous impact on oil production in the Middle East.
Currently, the petroleum industry is fortunate in that important petroleum developments are taking place in areas with more stable governments and less serious minority problems. The development of oil and gas fields in the North Sea, for example, certainly creates some problems between the population of Scotland and the British government in London, who have different perspectives on the development. However, once the problems are understood, it appears that the oil industry can frequently adapt successfully to local aspirations and situations.
This will probably apply to Canada as well. In this country, petroleum developments in the Arctic are occurring largelyin areas which have been traditionally and are presently occupied by the Inuit. These lands are considered by the Inuit to be lands belonging to their people because for thousands of years they have been the only occupants of these lands. The Inuit were a nomadic people, moving from place to place in search of good hunting and fishing, and occupying at: varying times large areas. These lands have been necessary to the Inuit in order to live. The petroleum and mining industries are now moving into these northern lands. However, the Inuit have been virtually excluded from meaningful participation in these developments because of their lack of knowledge about such operations. This exclusion has led to problems between the Inuit and the industry.
It is probable that in Canada, as i other parts of the world, the petroleum industry will be able to accommodate most of the objectives of the Inuit, once the problems associated with development have been understood.