Is there a gold mine beneath the Aberdeen dog park?
Quirks in B.C.’s Mineral Tenure Act — under criticism at this week’s annual Union of B.C. Muncipalties meeting — can be seen in a recent claim staked in Kamloops.
Daily News reader Anne Neave noted, on May 18 this year, a claim was staked in Aberdeen — centred on the intersection of Howe Road and Pacific Way.
It includes a city dog park and dozens of single-family homes.
Why would anyone stake a claim in the suburbs of Kamloops?
“It has to be speculation,” said longtime mining promoter Jim Gillis, who once held claims that form part of the proposed Ajax deposit.
But speculation on what?
Gillis’s best guess is the claims holder is betting on a failure of KGHM’s proposed mine to get necessary permits from the federal and provincial governments. If the mine were to sue government, allied claims could also get in on the action.
Gillis has a friend with a claim in what is now Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, dedicated by the NDP government of the 1990s — which triggered a lawsuit from mining companies at Windy Craggy. He is still fighting with government.
Under the Mineral Tenure Online service, the cost is to stake a claim on one “cell” — slightly over 20 hectares — is a dirt cheap $35.
Those staking a claim must spend $5 a hectare on exploration for the first few years — that, or do nothing and pay government double that amount.
City geologist Linda Dandy remembers a decade ago when prospectors cut a post out of a tree or drove in a 4x4 stake and walked 500 metres to physically stake a claim. In rugged B.C. country it was tough, physical work.
Sitting at a computer and clicking on a map? Not so much.
Dandy was equally baffled about the suburban Aberdeen claim.
“Maybe mineralization at Ajax extends toward the town. (But) there’s no way you could do anything about it.”
The Daily News reached claim holder Kathy Epp, who was initially reluctant to speak with a reporter. But she agreed to solve the mystery.
“I’m trying to be one wrench in a cog,” said Epp, who opposes Ajax because it is so close to Kamloops.
“If enough people around the mine made claims it might be enough to make it uncomfortable.”
Epp said she first thought of the idea after visiting a picturesque ranch and learning a prospector was snooping. She now owns the mineral title under her own home in Knutsford.
“I don’t want others digging up land that’s near me… . “Who knows, if more people knew for $25 you could get a free miners licence and buy up property on the fringes, that could make it uncomfortable.”
Ajax opponents in Kamloops note it’s not the only urban claim. Kamloops Area Preservation Association member Ruth Madsen detailed last year claims that include parts of Juniper Ridge and the Glenmohr subdivision in Aberdeen — the latter held by New Gold.
In a statement, the ministry said no-registration reserves exist in B.C. — within parks, for example.
The province owns subsurface rights in B.C. It can grant rights to explore and claim royalties from mineral production.
Exploration work, trenching for example, cannot occur near a home unless there is agreement by the homeowner and mining company, the ministry said. If the two sides don’t agree, an arbitration process kicks in.
Gillis said the system is all about money, both for government and claim holders. Much of the province is staked, with many claim owners paying cash-in-lieu rather than working the land.
There are also computer programs that scan each morning for expired claims and automatically renew them in a new claim holder’s name. The new owners hope to cash in on forgetfulness or luck into a claim near an existing mine.