MAC: Mines and Communities

Digging In - In Our View: Property Owners Must Get Better Notice When Mineral Rights Are At Stake

Published by MAC on 2007-07-12
Source: The Daily Gleaner

Digging in - In our view: Property owners must get better notice when mineral rights are at stake

The Daily Gleaner (Appeared on page C7)

12th July 2007

Residents of Cambridge-Narrows are feeling as if they're on shaky ground these days.

And while that might not quite be true, they could very well be on very valuable land -- valuable to a mining company that's staked its claim on mineral rights on properties around the village.

Locals have been a bit thrown by the appearance of blue ribbons flapping from trees and skies full of helicopters. The ribbons indicate that property's mineral rights have been claimed. With blue ribbons coming out of the blue like this, it's no wonder villagers feel more than a bit bewildered.

They are worried about more than their own property rights. Many locals want to know what effect mining will have on the local watershed. Salmon habitat and groundwater supply are two concerns raised by the Canaan Washademoak Watershed Association.

The confusion all comes down to what you actually own when you own a home and the land it is on. You do own the land but not the rights to the minerals under it. Those rights are retained by the Crown. When a mining company believes there's a strong chance the minerals in the land might be valuable enough to make digging them out worthwhile, they stake a claim. That's when the little blue ribbons start popping up.

The mining company with its eye on Cambridge-Narrows is looking for uranium. Uranium is a heavy metal that's used as an energy source. It did not suddenly appear in the land under much of New Brunswick in large concentrations; in fact, it's been there for about the last 6.6 billion years. What it did suddenly do was jump in price to about $135 a pound from $10 a pound in the last 30 months. The price jumped because oil prices are high and that drives up the cost of alternative energy sources.

At $135 a pound, there's profit in them thar hills. And mining companies are looking for it right across New Brunswick. The province is going through its biggest mineral staking rush since 1953. Usually, about 3,000 stakes are claimed each year. So far this year, there's been between 11,000 and 12,000.

Cambridge-Narrows property owners will be learning all this and more about the Newfoundland mining company's plans at a meeting Saturday. That's because while a mining company can stake a claim on mineral rights on a property without talking to the property owner, they can't actually exercise those rights without talking to the owner. Or, as the mining act states, mining companies must make contact with property owners before any work of a damaging nature or that interferes with the owners' enjoyment or use of the land can happen.

But that makes none of this any less upsetting to the people who find blue ribbons flapping on their property. Mining companies would be wise to talk to property owners before the law requires them to do so.

The companies need to do a little public education on mineral rights before a village starts to feel under siege.

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