Mineral Definition and Ownership
As defined under the Mining Act, most minerals are owned by the Crown; however, some land grants reserved only specific minerals to the Crown and therefore other minerals were, in fact, transferred to the grantee. Prior to 1810, it was common for gold and silver and a few other minerals to be reserved to the Crown.
The Mining Act defines a mineral as any natural, solid, inorganic or fossilized organic substance and such other substances as are prescribed by regulation to be minerals, but does not include:
- Sand, gravel, ordinary stone, clay or soil unless it is to be used for its chemical or special physical properties, or both, or where it is taken for contained minerals,
- Ordinary stone used for building or construction,
- Peat or peat moss,
- Bituminous shale, oil shale, albertite or intimately associated substances or products derived there from,
- Oil or natural gas, or
- Such other substances as are prescribed by regulation not to be minerals.
Crown-owned minerals are property separate from the soil; that is, a landowner owns the surface rights but does not own minerals unless some minerals were granted with the land and each conveyance since the granting has preserved the ownership of those minerals.
By means of the Mining Act, the province makes Crown-owned minerals available for exploration and development. Prospectors (persons or companies who hold prospecting licences), holders of claims and holders of mining leases have the right to prospect, explore, mine and produce those minerals, whether they are on crown-owned or privately-owned lands. They also have the right of access to the minerals; however, they are liable for any damage they cause.
All crown-owned minerals are available for prospecting and staking except in:
- Lands withdrawn from staking for all or certain minerals, e.g., coal and potash are currently withdrawn from prospecting and staking.
- Lands already staked or leased.
- Indian reserves. Minerals in Indian reserves are administered through the Indian Act of Canada.
- National and Provincial Parks, Protected Natural Areas, and Military Lands.
There are more than 375 mine openings at 63 separate mine sites in the Province. Most of these openings are on private land. Many of them predate modern safety rules. They are dangerous!