Every five years or so, cottagers in the Ottawa Valley rediscover the fact that they do not own the mineral rights beneath their properties, and they complain vociferously in the local newspaper. This happens when they discover that nasty mining companies have staked claims or dug trenches nearby.
Needless to say, no one wants strangers wandering across their lawns, or the trenches that may be dug (but not filled afterwards) in the name of mineral exploration. Nor do they like the fact that most of this activity goes on behind their backs. But there is not much the holders of surface rights can do about it.
We in the mining industry know that surface rights and mineral rights are two separate issues. It comes as no surprise to us that the Crown in almost all cases controls the granting of mineral rights. In fact, if governments left the mining rights to individual private landowners, I doubt that a consensus could be reached allowing even one new producer.
The little slice of heaven on the Ottawa River belonging to the Scales family is part of a registered plan of subdivision, thus exempting it from staking activity. That I have known since we purchased our home five years ago.
Lots of questions about mining and surface rights can be answered at the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines website (www.mndm.gov.on.ca/MNDM/MINES/LANDS/bulbrd/surface_rights/default_e.asp). The FAQs section is most helpful.
Readers wondering about a specific property in Ontario can check the claim maps posted by the government at www.mndm.gov.on.ca/mndm/mines/lands/claimap3/default_e.asp. Click on "Map Search" in the left-hand column. I apologize for the long address, but the interactive maps work well once you get the viewer loaded.
Perhaps other provinces and territories have posted similar information on their websites. Calling their mining recorders' offices and speaking with a person might also unearth the information.
The Ottawa Valley is probably not the only place that surface rights holders are surprised to see prospectors on their land. If you know of a friend or relative with a similar complaint, help him understand what is going on.
Most mining claims are never mined, but exploration activity can be disruptive. If you are a prospector or employee of an exploration company, make an extra effort to communicate with landowners. A little understanding can go a long way toward good will.