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Nearly every mine started with an explorer who walked through the bush, collected rocks and hoped to hit the mother lode (and get rich). And Canada has a lot of success stories like this…

Currently if a company or individual wants to explore a new area or to look for new minerals and metals in an established exploration camp the first step is to acquire enough land and secure a permit to explore and conduct work.

In Canada, the three basic types of mining tenure are a mining claim, mining lease and a freehold interest in land. Mining claims can only be acquired by licensed prospector, who is permitted to stake a claim on Crown or private lands that are open for exploration.

In Ontario, the Ministry of the Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) will launch its long-awaited online staking on 10 April, 2018. Until 9 January, 2018 the only way to acquire new mining claims in Ontario was ground staking the land by licensed prospectors but, with the modernisation of the Mining Act of Ontario, this is already history. Ground staking is still the only option to acquire land for mineral exploration in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, though. Ground staking a piece of land involves physically outlining the area to be staked by planting corner- and line posts and marking the claim boundary lines by blazing trees and cutting underbrush. The corners and line posts are marked using metal tags. A drawing of the staked land and a description of the claim is submitted to the Mining Recorder in the local office. The documentation is reviewed and then the claim is recorded in the mining register.

In the late 1990’s with the advancement of the computerization in every sphere of our lives, the mining registers were entered into an online database system. The time when the mining claims were drawn on linen, paper or Mylar sheets has passed and currently all Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island have a Mining Title Management System, based on a GIS (Geographic Information System) in which the current and active mining claims can be viewed and queried.

Through the years the provinces added additional layers of topographical, geological, environmental and social information. Currently every province and territory has an Internet Map Server (IMS) GIS platform that is an interactive data warehouse and allows geoscientists to efficiently and effectively view, query and download the necessary datasets.

In the late 1990’s the idea of a computerized remote land acquisition system became more popular in the mining departments of the local governments. At the beginning, the idea of “Map Staking” was rejected by prospectors, local aboriginal communities, a lot of independent geologists and property owners in every province or territory. It is true that the physical “going in the bush” and staking the ground generates economic activities in remote areas with very limited business opportunities. Project generation, which includes ground staking claims was a very a big part of the prospector’s business. In 2009, a Timmins-based businessman and community leader, who advocated mining and development in Northern Ontario, wrote “Canadian’s mining and mineral industries owe their existence to the men – and a few women – who abandoned the comforts of civilization for the hardships of life in the bush.  Home was a tent or a crude cabin with the isolation of living alone usually tempered only by the comfort of a dog.” He also concluded: “The elimination of ground staking is singly the biggest threat to the individual prospector and will result in an extensive cull and possible extinction of the independent prospector throughout Ontario.”

With the advancement of IMS and GIS technology almost all Canadian provinces and Territories have now developed and maintain electronic Mining Title Management Systems. The online applications for the different provinces and territories are listed in Table 1. The web-based applications are based on an ESRI ArcGIS Platform and provide 24/7 online access to land tenure and geoscience data.

Table 1 Mineral Tenure Internet Applications in Canada

Against fierce opposition from the old-time prospectors, by the end of 2017 several provinces had already implemented online claim staking. The experience from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia proved that the online staking is a viable option to register a claim. Some of the main advantages are:

  • The use of Internet, Map-based GIS applications such as Google Maps and online shopping has become the norm. We can all identify where the area of interest from any location with internet access.
  • Online staking is cost-effective. Land can be staked in a remote location without spending thousands of dollars for helicopter and float-plane flights and time to travel to the remote location.
  • Online staking saves the time for the data entry and verification in the governmental agency. There is little delay for title registration that previously took up to 2 months.
  • It is practically impossible to stake the same area by different prospectors or companies at the same time. This will reduce and possibly eliminate land tenure disputes.
  • Online staking gives the people involved in the mining industry equal access during the land acquisition process. The prospector or junior exploration company can stake the area of interest, the same way as a major company. All that they need is access to the Internet.
  • Online staking is environmentally friendly and has very little impact on the land or the First Nations Communities. There is no need to cut or blaze trees.
  • Lines that were previously cut are usually overgrown in few years and a lot of the posts, planted in the ground have fallen down and may be very difficult to find.
  • Online staking is safer. The claim can be staked at any time and the exploration work can be performed during the spring, summer, fall or winter.

Canadian prospectors are knowledgeable and very comfortable using drones, computers and hand held GPS and XRF analyzers. Staking a claim is the first step, but without “boots on the ground” the company or individual cannot advance a mineral exploration project. Although online staking in Ontario may lead to an initial staking rush, only the companies or individuals that conduct real exploration work will be able to hold onto their claims.

Micon’s Experience

Micon has worked in many different jurisdictions, and with almost every type of mineral tenure system, including those jurisdictions with online staking. Our experience shows that the early stage geological exploration, such as soil sampling, stream sediment sampling, ground geophysics and general prospecting and sampling leads to the generation of drill targets and provides additional geological knowledge that can help new discoveries and wealth creation.

Micon considers the modernization of the Mining Act in Ontario and the transition to online claim staking in Ontario from 10 April, 2018, a necessary step in the mineral exploration industry.

The different mining title management systems are easy to understand and use. The systems not only assist individual prospectors and companies keep track of their own holdings but also allow everyone to keep track of claim status and open ground available for staking from the comfort of their offices or homes. The days of boots on the ground to stake claims maybe gone but this means that individual prospectors and companies can use the money previously allotted to this exercise to conduct meaningful exploration programs to assist in the hunt for the next mine.

Mining title management systems are designed to be user friendly, but if you need help with your new land acquisition, land management, data compilation or early stage exploration, our geologists have first-hand experience with the GIS systems and regulatory framework in many of Canada’s provinces or territories, and would be glad to discuss your needs and advise on the most efficient data and land management program, to help you save time, resources and money.

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