A Knutsford couple unaware of a possible gold deposit beneath their private acreage is calling for updates to the B.C. Mineral Tenure Act after a stranger showed up at their home last month to stake a claim — reminding them of the gold rush days of the 1800s.
“It’s unbelievable,” Marie Reimer said, objecting to the claim and calling B.C. laws “antiquated.
“For hardly any money [to register a claim online], you can go in and wreak havoc on people’s lives.”
About two years ago, Reimer and partner Doug Hallat purchased 50 acres of “peace and quiet and tranquility and nature” on Simms Road in Knutsford, located in the southernmost reaches of city limits.
Reimer said they moved there to escape the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland.
On the afternoon of Sept. 6, however, Reimer and Hallat were sitting outside, having a drink, when a man drove up and notified the couple he had papers staking a claim to mineral beneath their property’s soil.
He told them there are plans to explore and use the property as a teaching site for Thompson Rivers University geology students.
“It was a surprise to me. It completely blindsided, shocked,’” Reimer said.
“And then, you know, he starts saying, ‘We’ve given you notice. Now we’re going to start coming onto your property. We’re going to start prospecting.’ He even said, ‘There’s an old gold mine on your property. We want to check it out.’
“And I’m thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. A mine? Here? You’ve got to be kidding me!’”
According to provincial laws, however, the unexpected scenario is legal.
Kamloops Exploration Group president Jane McCaw said rights to a land’s surface and what lies beneath are generally granted separately.
She said the situation is not unique to British Columbia, but practised similarly across the country.
“Basically, everyone assumes that when they buy a property, they own what’s underneath it,” McCaw said.
“But in very, very rare cases is that true. For the most part, the Crown owns all undersurface rights.”
For the most part, McCaw said, mining isn’t bad, with strict regulations in place governing how the industry does business.
Surface rights are governed by the B.C. Land Act and undersurface rights fall under the B.C. Mineral Tenure Act. McCaw noted the laws, for example, require notification prior to entering private property and prioritize rights in situations that include homes and otherwise.
“If there’s a house and you want to drill, you can’t do it,” McCaw said.
“If there is an orchard, you can’t do it. If there’s a barn, you can’t do it. So if he walked up to this house and said he’s going to set up a drill right beside their house, not going to happen. It just won’t. That is something that the government would definitely be watching for.”
About 10 per cent of the province is staked, McCaw said, though she added she is unaware how many claims have been staked in Kamloops, which she described as a “mining town.”
McCaw advised anyone looking to purchase property to investigate what may or may not lie beneath. An online mapping tool, which shows mineral titles in specific areas, can be found online at mtonline.gov.bc.ca.
The subsurface of neighbouring Knutsford properties have apparently also been claimed. Kathleen Doi has owned more than 20 acres on Simms Road since the early 1970s and shares a fence with Reimer. Doi, however, is not concerned about the claim beneath her property.
“I didn’t think too much because, when we first moved up here, there was some claim and people running around and nothing happened,” she said.
The province noted that in many cases, the landowner, mineral title holder and government work together to reach an agreement. Doi has outlined a number of conditions she would like satisfied, including liability insurance for those who enter her property and accommodation of cattle, which sometimes roam her land, which is leased by ranchers. She also wants her home’s privacy preserved.
Reimer said surface owners are usually compensated, but she cited a case in which a family was given $60,000 for mining of dichotomous earth on their land in the Kamloops area — compensation she argued was minimal for what was given up.
Reimer said she feels as though her property is no longer hers and wants the provincial laws to change, calling them “ridiculous” and “antiquated.”
“I had no idea that someone could stake a claim,” Reimer said. “If I had known, I would have staked it myself.”
KTW did not hear back from Kamloops-South-Thompson MLA Todd Stone before deadline, nor were calls to two men identified to have attended Simms Road and staked claims — David Pollard and Bruce Perry — returned before press time.