Placer Mining in BC

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Claims and Leases

I am not an expert on mining law - I am just trying to help. Use the information in this website at your own risk. See the Notice at the bottom of this page.
Placer claims and leases are referred to as "tenure", a right for some period of time to explore for and mine placer minerals. The word "tenure" is used in the legislation, webpage and the MTO system to refer to claims and leases.

Placer Claims

Placer claims are acquired in BC by clicking on MTO grid cells on the MTO "Mineral Titles Online" Internet mapping system and whipping out your credit card. The size of the cells varies (see) below, but they are roughly 20 hectares - between 350 and 450 metres East and West and 464 metres North and South. Acquiring a claim costs $5 per hectare - approximately $100 per cell.

Before 2006, 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".

Placer claims do not overlap. Where a legacy claim partially covers a grid cell, a cell-based claim in that cell only covers the ground not covered by the legacy claim. However, if the legacy claim expires, such a cell-based claim will automatically expand to include the entire cell.

A placer claim is maintained (renewed) - that is, held from year to year - by doing work on the claim, known as the "Assessment Work Requirement" of $20 per hectare - approximately $400 per cell. Alternatively, the owner can make a Payment Instead of Exploration and Development (PIED), also known as "Cash in Lieu" (CIL) of $40 per hectare - approximately $800 per cell.

Production on a Placer Claim

There is a limit of 20,000 cubic metres of "Pay Dirt" that can be produced per year from a placer claim.
Warning: This is a good example of where the advice in this web-site is for general guidance - its accuracy is not guaranteed. I don't claim to be an expert and there is no definition of "Pay Dirt" in either the Mineral Tenure Act or the Mineral Tenure Act Regulation. This being the case, inspectors in different districts could define "Pay Dirt" differently. If the exact definition of "Pay Dirt" is relevant to your operation, you would be wise to discuss the matter with the appropriate district office.
I have discussed the definition of "Pay Dirt" with one of the district mining offices in about 2010. I was told that "Pay Dirt" is what is washed through the sluice (or other final recovery equipment); It does not include over-size (ex. boulders rejected by a grizzly) However, see the Warning, above.

(There is no production limits on placer leases - see below).

Size of a Placer Claim

A placer claim be made up of anywhere from 1 to 100 cells.

Placer claims may be "amalgamated" (combined) or subdivided (the cells may be split into two or more smaller claims). The number of cells may be reduced.

Size of Cells

MTO grid cells vary in size. They are larger North-South than they are East-West, and the further North a cell is, the smaller it is. (They are based on latitude and longitude, and the lines of longitude converge at the North Pole.) MTO cell size is measured in Hectares (ha)...

As Far North As     N-S (m)     E-W (m)     Size (ha)
US / Canada Border     463     457     21.16
Merritt     463     448     20.74
Revlestoke     463     439     20.33
Wells in the Cariboo     464     418     19.40
Terrace     464     405     18.79
Fort St. John     464     387     17.96
BC / Yukon Border     464     348     16.15

Placer Leases

In a
Placer Lease Area, a placer claim can be converted into a placer lease. The two biggest differences between a claim and a lease are...
  • There are no limits on production (the amount of pay-dirt that can be processed) from a lease.
  • A lease is held by paying rent of $20 per hectare - about $400 per cell - rather than doing work.

A claim is turned into a lease by submitting an application using the MTO System and following a few other steps. In most cases, a survey by a British Columbia Land Surveyor will have to be done (at the applicant's cost). The cost of this survey may claimed as physical work to maintain the claim. See For More Information, below.

A placer lease is usually granted for an initial period of ten years. If justified by a mining operation, this period can be renewed.

A placer lease is a more secure form of tenure than a claim. It cannot be legally challenged except in the case of fraud.

Location of Placer Claims and Leases

The location of a placer claim or lease is defined as where it appears in the Ministry's MTO mapping system. This is a result of legislation effective January 1, 2008. This is true for all claims, including the old legacy placer claims that were originally defined by the location of posts in the ground.

The purpose of this approach is to make the location of claims and leases clear and certain. No one can declare that the location of a post is or was in a particular place so "you are on my claim". Since the law came into effect, the location of posts makes no difference.

For More Information

For more information, see the following Information Updates...

No.   6     Applying for a Lease of Placer Minerals (LPM)

No. 16     Claim and Lease

No. 31     Mining and Placer Lease Survey Procedure


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