Mining's Privileged Access to Land Under Challenge Across the Country

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Opposition to the “Free Entry” system of mine claim staking is being challenged across the country by Indigenous people and private property owners.

In southern British Columbia, a “landowners’ rights group” has been formed to take on staking of the mineral rights on their lands by prospectors. (See article in the Tyee.)

At the same time, elders and community members of the Tahltan First Nation in northern BC blocked a road in June, refusing to give bcMetals access to its mineral properties at the Sacred Headwaters on the Togadin Plateau. “We, the people who use and occupy these lands, will decide which and how many projects are appropriate for our traditional territory”, said spokesperson Rhoda Quock. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect our sacred lands.” See the June 23rd, 2006 news release.

In northern Ontario, Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug (KI, previously known as Big Trout Lake First Nation) prevented Platinex from conducting exploration on its mining claims last February, and are now in court challenging the constitutionality of the Ontario Mining Act. Platinex says this could spell the “end of mining in Canada”. See “Far North Peoples Walk 2100 kilometres to say “no” to mining” on our web site.)

KI is one of nine First Nations in northern Ontario with moratoria on mining development on their traditional lands. In April, Muskrat Dam First Nation went to their annual community goose hunting grounds, only to find that De Beers’ exploration had been there first and scared away all the geese. (See “De Beers Accused of Ruining Spring Goose Hunt” on our web site.)

In southern Ontario, Bedford Mining Alert and the Citizens Mining Advisory Committee continue their battle to give property owners a veto over mineral staking on their property. (See “Ontario: the Old Mining Act Works” on our web site.)

The free entry system is the dominant means of granting mineral tenures in Canada today. It gives mining companies the exclusive right to Crown-owned mineral substances from the surface of their claim to an unlimited extension downwards. There are 3 primary rights associated with the law of free entry:

• the right of entry and access on virtually all lands;

• the right to locate and register a claim without consulting the Crown; and

• the right to acquire a mineral lease with no discretion on the part of the Crown.

For more information see our web site section on "Free Entry".