FAQ about Mineral Tenure in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories

NOTE: This summary is intended to assist readers in understanding the regulations that govern mineral tenures in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. For an exact statement of the regulatory requirements please see the Nunavut Mining Regulations and the Northwest Territories Mining Regulations.

Since April 1, 2014, land and resource management responsibilities in the Northwest Territories has been devolved to the Government of the Northwest Territories. You can access the territorial mining regulations however, the federal Northwest Territories Mining Regulations will continue to apply to certain specific parcels of lands in the Northwest Territories. These lands are listed in Schedule 4 of the Northwest Territories Devolution Agreement.

What is mineral tenure?

Mineral tenure refers to a range of mechanisms by which the rights to explore for and develop mineral deposits are allocated. Details of the mineral tenure system in application on Crown lands are specified in the Nunavut Mining Regulations and the Northwest Territories Mining Regulations.

What is a mineral?

"Mineral" under the administration of the Nunavut Mining Regulations and the Northwest Territories Mining Regulations means any naturally occurring inorganic substance found on or under any surface of land but does not include the construction or building materials authorized under the Territorial Quarrying Regulations.

Why do we have tenures?

Mineral exploration and mine development are lengthy, capital-intensive and high-risk endeavours. As such, individuals and companies will only be willing to invest their time, effort and money in mineral exploration and mine development if they know that their rights to develop a mineral discovery are secure. The mineral tenure system provides that security. Without secure tenures, private sector exploration would not occur.

What types of tenures are there?

There are four types of tenures:

1. Licence to Prospect – A license grants the holder the right to prospect for minerals on Crown lands open for mineral exploration. In addition, only a license holder can obtain the other types of mineral tenures. Anyone 18 years of age or older or a registered company can acquire a license on payment of $5 for an individual or $50 for a company. Licenses must be renewed annually and are not transferable.

2. Prospecting Permit – A prospecting permit grants the exclusive rights to explore and have mineral claims recorded within the assigned boundaries of a given area for a specified period of time. The areas are one quarter of a mineral claim staking sheet (1:50,000 scale map) and vary in size from 8,319 to 22,900 hectares. A prospecting permit has a fixed term of three years for areas south of 68°N, and five years for areas north of 68°N. Prospecting permits are not renewable. Any area of further interest to the holder must be converted to a mineral claim(s) prior to permit expiry provided the work requirements for the specified period have been completed.

Applications for prospecting permits are received between February 1 and the close of business on the last business day of November before the year in which it is to commence. They are issued effective as of February 1 the following year and are transferable. Applications must include details of the exploratory work to be conducted, an application fee of $25, and a charge.

3. Mineral Claim – A claim grants the exclusive right to prospect and develop mineral discoveries within the boundaries of the claim. The area of a claim cannot exceed 1250 hectares. Any holder of an active license to prospect can stake a claim on Crown lands open for exploration that is not already under claim or under a prospecting permit. Only the holder of a prospecting permit may register a claim within the prospecting permit area. Claims are transferable to other parties.

To register a claim it must be physically staked by marking the corners and the boundaries of a rectangular area with posts in accordance with the Nunavut Mining regulations and an application submitted to the Mining Recorder's Office within 60 days of staking. The application includes a sketch map showing the position of the claim, and a fee equal to $0.25 per hectare for the area contained within the claim.

To maintain a claim in good standing the claim holder must:

  • undertake annual work; and
  • within 90 days of the anniversary of the claim submit a statement of work, an assessment report, and a fee of $0.25 per hectare of the claim.

4. Leases – Only a mineral claim in good standing can be converted to a lease. While ore samples can be collected from a claim, only a lease can enter full commercial production. A claim holder may apply for a lease if:

  • the value of the ore removed from the claim exceeds $100,000, unless the purpose of removal is for assay and testing;
  • work has reached a total value of $25 per hectare;
  • a legal boundary survey of the claim has been recorded; and
  • the right to the claim(s) to be leased is not under dispute.

A lease has a 21-year term and can be renewed for a further 21 years. There is an annual rent of $2.50 per hectare for the first 21-year term, and $5 per hectare for subsequent renewal periods. Leases are transferable to other parties.

What is work?

Access to Crown lands open for exploration is granted in order to promote active mineral exploration. Prospecting permits and mineral claims grant the exclusive right to prospect on defined areas for set periods of time. To ensure that permit certain charges must be paid and these charges can be remitted if an equivalent amount of work is done and reported on. The charge is $0.25 per hectare for the first period, $0.50 per hectare for the second period, and $1 per hectare for the third. For permits south of 68°N, each permit is period is one year. For permits north of 68°N, the first and second periods are two years long and the third is one year.

The activities that constitute work are defined in the mining regulations. For a mineral claim the valid types of work includes:

The required annual value of the work for a claim is $10 per hectare for the first two years and $5 per hectare for each subsequent year.

The valuation of work is calculated in accordance with Schedule II of the Nunavut Mining Regulations and the Northwest Territories Mining Regulations.

Why are assessment reports required?

Prospecting permit and mineral claim holders amass significant detailed knowledge of the geology of the areas being explored. The assessment reports are a means by which much of the information collected can enter the public domain. These reports are of value to those interested in exploring in the vicinity of existing claims or in re-exploring the area of lapsed permits, claims or leases. Assessment reports are not open for public inspection until the earlier of the day of the expiration or cancellation of the prospecting permit or recording of a claim and three years after the day on which the report was received by the Mining Recorder.

Can a mineral tenure be relinquished or surrendered?

Permits, claims and leases can be cancelled. if the permittee, holder of a recorded claim or leased claim give written notice of cancellation to the Mining Recorder.

Do mineral tenures grant surface rights?

No. Mineral tenures grant subsurface rights. Work conducted under a prospecting permit or mineral claim on Crown lands may require a land-use permit while a lease will require either a land-use permit or a surface lease. Where the surface rights are privately held, the tenure holder must obtain the surface rights holder's consent. For Aboriginal or Inuit owned lands, please refer to the appropriate land claim agreement.

Are mineral tenure holders subject to environmental regulations?

Yes. Mineral exploration and mine development in both territories are subject to environmental assessment, permitting, regulation and any relevant land claim agreement. Projects may be subject to environmental review and could require permits to use land and water. Exploration and development could be subject to provisions of various land claims and due diligence should be undertaken on a case-by-case basis to determine the status of the lands and any obligations that could arise either prior to staking a claim or during exploration and development. In addition, the lands open for mineral exploration and development are assessed by territorial land use planning processes.

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