During the gold rush, as thousands of prospectors made their way to the west, early colonial legislation gave them a right of “free entry” to most lands in the colony, and established a system for them to acquire mineral rights by “staking a claim”. Over 150 years later, the presence of mineral claims, new or historical, still gives mining activity priority over virtually all other land uses in BC.
BC’s archaic mining laws have a real cost for communities, their environment and their economies. Furthermore, the costs of the free entry system are not just borne by communities and First Nations but by mining companies themselves who fine their projects mired in controversy and delayed by protests and court challenges.
This report from West Coast Environmental Law and the Fair Mining Collaborative tells the story of a variety of people and places in BC – and the negative impacts of the free entry system on them. It presents the results of extensive research about best practices from other jurisdictions to propose a simple platform for reform:
- Establish common sense restrictions on where mineral claims and mining leases are allowed
- Ensure that the provincial and First Nations governments, private land owners and the public have a meaningful role in decisions about mineral tenure
- Limit the cost to taxpayers of Mineral Tenure Act modernization
Modernizing BC’s Mineral Tenure Act in this manner is key to creating a responsible, modern and effective mining regime in British Columbia.