Most land in western Canada has two kinds of rights: surface rights, and mineral rights (also known as subsurface rights).
Surface rights determine who has the rights to the surface area of land, while mineral rights determine who has the right to exploit any minerals located beneath the surface of a property. Mineral rights can be completely separate from property rights.
Who Owns These Mineral Rights?
In Canada, property owners generally hold the surface rights, while mineral rights are usually owned by the provincial government.
The government may award a time-limited (3-10 year) lease for the mineral rights to a company that wants to develop natural gas or oil. While the government grants mineral rights to a company to explore for and produce oil and natural gas, mineral rights do not include access to the surface land – surface access is granted by the landowner.
Accessing Private Property
Once a company has secured mineral rights they will negotiate a surface lease with the landowner. The agreement:
- Outlines the proposed exploration and development activities.
- Details the construction and maintenance of any above-ground structures.
- Provides fair compensation for surface access to well sites and related infrastructure.
- Includes a survey plan showing access, dimensions of the lease area and location of the well and infrastructure proposed.