Plans to expand the Raven’s Ridge subdivision in Whitehorse are encountering some unexpected opposition.
Jim Coyne, whose company H. Coyne and Sons Ltd. owns subsurface rights in the area, told city council on Monday he wants compensation from the owners of the McIntyre Creek development.
“I think the mining rights in those Crown grants have to be recognized, otherwise we’ll want some compensation from probably everyone, including the city, ATCO and Raven’s Ridge,” Coyne told council.
It’s a unusual situation, said manager Dennis Shewfelt.
“I don’t think we’ve ever come across a situation where we’ve had one private owner owning the surface rights and another private owner owning the subsurface rights,” he said.
Crown grants are a holdover from the early 20th century. When the federal government administered the territory’s land, it would issue grants for both surface and subsurface rights.
Sometimes, the subsurface grants gave rights to everything under the surface, and sometimes they were more specific. In this case, the grants in question are for quartz mining.
No Crown grants have been issued since the 1940s, when the territory’s Lands Act was created. But they still exist here and there.
“We’ve got pockets of them all over the place,” said Bryony McIntyre, manager of mineral plans and development for the Yukon government. “Those rights still exist, especially if they’re held by a third party.”
To complicate matters, when land changed hands the surface and subsurface rights could be sold separately.
“Sometimes, surface would just be transferred and subsurface would be retained by the original owner,” said McIntyre. “So you can have various combinations of ownership.”
This is relatively common to the south, but it’s a rarity in the Yukon.
Coyne and Sons bought the Crown grants from Hudson Bay Mining in 1998 to explore for minerals. “We had about 25 of them altogether,” said Coyne.
When Raven’s Ridge Developments bought the land for the first phase of their development from ATCO back in 1998, they also acquired the subsurface rights.
When they sold those lots, the new owners got the subsurface rights as part of the deal.
“Although they might not be aware of it, each and every one of them should own the mineral rights underneath their properties,” said Mark Radke, one of the directors of Raven’s Ridge Developments.
“We did that because we thought they were basically of negligible value given where they’re situated, being in the heart of the city of Whitehorse.”
While Radke knew that H. Coyne and Sons owned Crown grants, and there was some overlap, he didn’t think it would become an issue.
“We met with them four years ago,” said Radke. “They conveyed that they had these rights and they were opposed to any development happening on the surface of the land without their consent.
“We met with them and their lawyer and representatives of ATCO, but the meeting didn’t really lead anywhere.”
Since that meeting in 1998, Raven’s Ridge hadn’t heard more about the issue, until Monday’s city council meeting.
“I didn’t realize that they were actually intent on pursuing the development of a mine in the city of Whitehorse.”
Radke doesn’t intend to block access to the subsurface, he said. And he’s open to negotiating compensation.
“Certainly we think we’re prepared to pay fair compensation to purchase the mineral rights, but I suspect we have a very different view of what would be an appropriate amount.”
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