Finding gold in your own backyard! It’s a gem of a property. The title says it has minerals on it. Before you start panning for gold, get the facts on the riches beneath your feet.
Mineral Rights on Ontario Property Titles
The truth is finding gold in your own backyard doesn’t mean you’ve struck it rich. Mineral rights on your property title usually belong to the Crown or Province of Ontario. You may own the land, but you likely don’t own the minerals on the surface or below ground. While the Crown or Province can extract and use the minerals, chances are they won’t. Neither will you.
Can Prospectors Pursue Your Mineral Riches?
Before you rest easy about finding gold in your own backyard, Ontario property owners have been blindsided before. Anyone 18 or over can get a prospector’s licence in Ontario to stake and mine a claim. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can enter and start excavating your land. Before you worry about miners staking a claim on your land, unless exempted, some properties and areas are off limits.
‘No Go’ Areas for Mining Claims
As long as your property is in a town site or registered residential subdivision, you are likely safe from miners finding gold in your own backyard. Ditto parts of acreages where your house, dwellings or outhouse stand. Your crops, gardens, nurseries and such are off limits. So are springs, reservoirs, dams or waterworks.
Where Miners Can Stake a Claim
That’s not to say miners have no rights. Most Crown land and private property where the Crown owns the mineral rights can be prospected for minerals. A property deed stating you own “surface rights only” could be a clue your newly purchased acreage has been staked without you knowing it. Notice is recommended, but mining claims have been upheld where property owners weren’t consulted.
Is it a Mining Claim or Mining Lease?
Mining claims give owners exclusive rights to explore but not remove or sell minerals from your land. A claim is converted to a lease if the prospector wants to extract and sell the minerals. A survey must be completed first and the prospector needs permission to use the surface rights. That’s easy enough if the land is Crown owned, since the rights accompany the lease. When a prospector is intent on finding gold in your own backyard, they need your agreement and must compensate you for any damages.
Can You Stop a Prospector Finding Gold in Your Own Backyard?
It depends. Likely not, if the prospector staked an exploratory claim on a non-exempt property. Maybe, if they intrude on your homesite while exploring. Either way, get legal advice to protect your rights. Bring photos to support your complaint.
Mining Companies and Your Land
It gets more complicated if a mining operation is involved. The surface rights to your land could be leased to the operator by the province. The Ontario Mining Act can permit operators to construct ditches, install pipes, discharge or divert river water, pass through or over your land and water or build roads. You could get compensation, but there goes your peace of mind.
Claiming Compensation for Mining Damages
Right you are, mining is disruptive. Compensation for damages is not only possible, but it can include:
- physical disturbances to your property
- the right of peaceable possession
- the right to decide which trees are cut down
- rental income losses
- and more.
The more evidence you have the better.
What to Do if a Miner Moves In
You’re enjoying your place in the sun when a mineral owner writes or phones to say they have plans for finding gold in your own backyard. Call an Axess Law real estate lawyer. They can check who actually owns the mineral rights or refer you to a mining expert. Lawyers can also find out who, if anyone, owns royalties to minerals being extracted. A lawyer’s advice on how to minimize the impact on your land is useful. Miners must comply with restrictions and regulations on mineral extraction and clean up. Your lawyer can go over all of that with you.
What Would Happen If You Found Gold in Your Backyard
By now, you’re thinking maybe you’ll stake your own claim to protect your paradise from prospectors. It’s true you could find oil, gas, gypsum, lime or nickel under the ground. If your property deed includes surface rights, you might also mine above-ground minerals like clay, gravel or sand. But unless you are actively mining your property, don’t bother. Your claim will just be cancelled.
Digging for Gold
How deeply you have to dig to find gold depends on how it got there. Don’t expect to find gold in regular dirt. Look instead for gold veins, or gold deposits in granite and mineral-bearing belts in places like Lake of the Woods.
How to Find Out If Your Property Has Gold
Next time you buy a homesite or sell property in Ontario, check for active mining claims not registered on the property title. An Ontario real estate lawyer can find encumbrances, liens, and other claims when you buy land or sell an acreage. It’s the best way to protect your property from becoming a gold mine for someone else.
Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer
Axess Law answers your questions about mineral titles, and other property title encumbrances, or refers you to a real estate lawyer who specializes in this area. Our experienced real estate lawyers search title to properties for legal or financial claims that might delay or stop your purchase.
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