Before 2005, a claim was acquired by staking, using wooden stakes with metal tags and then recording the claim in the mining office. These old staked claims were generally 500 metres by 1000 metres (50 hectares). A small proportion of these claims were bent and were defined by 3 posts. Some of them had pieces missing where they would have otherwise overlapped an existing claim. Many of these old staked claims still exist. They are called “Legacy Claims”.
In B.C., anyone 18 years and older who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or authorized to work in the country can register and subsequently stake a mineral claim. Individuals need to have their identification verified by a government service desk, while corporations — which can also register and stake claims — do not. Once registered and online, if an area of interest is available, you pay $1.75 per hectare for a mineral claim and $5.00 per hectare for a placer claim.
After the B.C. government moved the claiming process online, the area staked across the province increased by 70 per cent to 8.3 million hectares and has remained above or around that size. In addition, the claim sizes were roughly cut in half, allowing for more claims to be added. And whether or not a mine is developed there in the end, these stakes still carry a toll for First Nations, private property owners, waterways and wildlife.
Moving to the online system was an attempt by the province to revitalize the mining industry. Mineral Titles Online is just one small part of that whole procedure to bring that confidence back, allowing miners to go out and find minerals. In the first three years after the process moved online, there was an “exponential” increase in claims. In the years after the digital upgrade, the total number of hectares claimed jumped from 4.9 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2005 and continued to climb to 14.5 million hectares in 2008. That’s an area more than 4.5 times the size of Vancouver Island.
There are dozens of YouTube how-to videos explaining the simple process of staking a claim. Once someone has a free miner certificate and stakes a claim, they have the right to access the area for “exploration and development.” That could mean using metal detectors, handheld tools to dig trenches or pits, or even setting up a temporary camp, according to the province’s policy on “permissible activities.”
But no work is necessary to keep the claim. When you obtain the mineral claim, it has a one-year expiry, but you can indefinitely renew the mineral claim for as long as you want. In order to keep the claim, you can either work it and register your efforts with the government, or pay a fee of between $10 and $40 per hectare in lieu of work.
There are a few restrictions on claim holders, including: they can’t access orchard land or “land under cultivation,” heritage properties or an area within 75 metres of a residence. However, the restrictions don’t stop someone from claiming a mineral title on these lands, private property or even, “underneath someone’s house. You actually do technically own the minerals under their house. You just have statutory or legal restrictions on what you can access.
Pros And Cons Of The Online System
First off, let me start by saying that nobody in their right mine would stake a claim on worthless moose pasture. Yet, every year, thousands of “arm chair” prospectors do just that. They purchase claims sight unseen only to find the claim to be worthless ground. The claim expires, and the process starts all over again. This is a huge cash-cow for the government.
In addition, this opens the flood gates for all the “claim flippers”, who try to benefit from your misfortune, and sell you “better” ground. In most cases, these claims are also moose pasture and you will never recur your costs for what you paid for the claim.
The biggest downfall, is that all of us true miners or prospectors, are being hindered by claimed ground for which no-one actively pursues. This restricts new mineral occurrences from being found, not as the government claims, encourages mineral development.
The old system was much better. You actually had to get off your duff and go out into the field and prospect. Only then could you find and stake a claim.