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Finding Gold in Your Own Backyard

You struck gold! It’s a gem of a property to begin with. 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 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, Ontario property owners have been blindsided before by finding miners staking a claim on their land. Acreage owners beware, 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, because 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. 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 that states you own the 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 to obtain or get permission to use the surface rights. That’s easy enough if the land is Crown owned, since the rights accompany the lease. When the prospector is on your land, they need your agreement and must compensate you for any damages.

Can You Evict a Prospector?

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 plan to start mining on your land. 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.

Staking Your Own Claim

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. 

Finding a Mining Claim

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.

Mineral Title Questions Answered When You Buy a Property

Axess Law Ontario answers your questions about mineral titles and other property title encumbrances when you buy a home. Video conference with a real estate lawyer anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week. Day or evening appointments are available by calling free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or using our online booking form. In person appointments can be made at our Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Ottawa, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. 
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s real estate law services.

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