Starting a Mine in B.C, Part 1 – Staking a Mineral Tenure

Introduction: This article is intended as a reference only. Readers are encouraged to refer to relevant legislation and acts for the most up-to-date information. A link to access this information is provided in the resources section below. Before delving into the details, it is important to understand key terminology that will be used throughout this series. It is vital to have an accurate understanding of these terms to avoid confusion and obtain more information from the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines website.

Mineral Tenure: Refers to a group of cells containing a Mineral Title that grants subsurface rights to the holder.

Mineral Title: Can be either a Mineral Lease or a Mineral Claim.

Mineral Claim: A tenure that limits ore production to a maximum of 1,000 tonnes or a total of 10,000 tonnes of bulk sample.

Mineral Lease: Required to exceed the production limits of a Mineral Claim or commence commercial production.

Overview: The Crown land in British Columbia is divided into small cells called the Mineral Title Online Grid. These cells are available for staking by individuals and organizations to conduct prospecting, exploration activities, and eventually to start a mine, depending on the project’s feasibility and economic conditions.

Types of Tenures: A mine can operate on either a Mineral Title or a Placer Title. A Mineral Title could contain metal or natural substances originally formed or deposited in talus rock. A placer tenure could contain metal or natural substances in the form of fragmentary or broken rock occurring in the loose earth, such as gravel, and not in talus rock. Placer Tenure can include ore of metal or other materials from placer mine tailings, dumps and previously mined deposits of placer minerals. Placer deposits are formed by gravity separation during the sedimentary processes and usually found in the bed of a river or a lake.

It is not possible to use a Mineral Claim to carry out a Placer Mining operation or vice versa.

Pre-Requisite and Set Up: All mineral title transactions occur through the British Columbia government’s online portal, Mineral Title Online (MTO). The link for this portal is included in the resources section below.

To obtain the login credentials for MTO, one must obtain a Free Miner Certificate (FMC) and a Business British Columbia Electronic Identification (BCeID). These are easy to acquire and can be created online instantly.

The holder of the FMC has the rights to acquire and possess Mineral Titles, enabling them to acquire subsurface rights for a tenure. The FMC also grants access to the MTO portal used for Mineral Title management. While geological information is available for public use free of cost, a FMC is required for acquiring, selling, transferring, or maintaining a Mineral Title.

The FMC is free for seniors (above 65 years old), $25 for individuals, and $500 for companies. Creating a BCeID is free, and the FMC must be renewed annually.

Finding a Tenure: The British Columbia government provides several free resources to identify the geological potential of a claim. Some of these tools and services include:

  • B.CGS Geoscience Map: Includes all the datasets and expanded geology layers in B.C. Albers Projection, along with information on geology and lithology layers.
  • Exploration Assistant: Contains eight analysis tools for displaying information based on query selections, including Discover Potential Tool, MINFILE, Geology, Mineral Titles, Geochemistry Element, Search Publications, Layer Finder, and Location/Gazetteer.
  • Mineral Titles Map: Contains geographic information and data on Mineral, Placer, and Coal tenures.
  • The MapperWrapper: Provides the ability to create layers and add map objects such as lines, polygons,

B.C UTM Zone Projection: This tool display a map of B.C that is projected for each of the five UTM zones in the province. UTM zone projections are useful viewing smaller areas at medium to large scales, and for obtaining UTM coordinates.

I personally prefer using a combination of MapPlace 2 and MINFILE Mineral inventory to search for potential areas for staking.

MINFILE Mineral Inventory contains geological, location and economic information on over 14,600 metallic, industrial mineral and coal mines, deposits and occurrences in B.C. This site also maintains an extensive database of various assessment reports filed by previous owners for all the mineral occurrences, developed prospects, past producing mine, and producing mines. It can search and filter for a specific occurrence based on mineral of interest, status of the occurrence, type of host rock, geological setting, area and many other parameters.

MapPlace 2 is a web service that can be used to browse, visualize, and analyze multidisciplinary geoscience data. The advantage of using this service is that the database is continuously updated and it is interlinked, enabling users to conduct queries and generate custom results by connecting to current data from many sources. Moreover, it does not require any additional plug-ins (can be used in chrome), is faster, handles larger datasets, accesses third-party base maps and imagery and, with a simpler more intuitive interface, that is easier to use.

MapPlace 2 allows data to be visualized on a map by using multiple geological layers such as geophysical surveys, geochronology, rock properties, geochemical analysis, geo chemistry data, surficial geology and bedrock geology. The tool also offers various layers to show climate stations, land-use planning areas, recreational areas, reserves, first nation boundaries, provincial parks and protected areas. Use these layers to make a judgment about potential regulatory problems that can arise while developing these claims.

The best feature about this tool is that it is integrated with MINFILE Mineral Inventory and Mineral Title search. This allows visualization of all the existing tenures, producing mines, past producing mines, developed prospects and anomalies on the same map, and get detailed information about them within few clicks. This tool can be used to keep an eye on tenures with an upcoming expiration date and potentially stake them.

Lastly, this tool can be used to draw polygons and download them as a shapefile to make maps in ArcGIS for submission to the government for permitting applications such as “Notice of work” and others. More information on this will be covered in the later articles.

Staking a Tenure

Each tenure is limited to 100 cells that must be adjacent to each other per submission. The size of each cell ranges from approximately 21 hectares in south and to approximately 16 hectares at the north of the province. This is a result of longitude lines gradually converging toward the North Pole.

The fee for registering a mineral claim is $1.75 per hectare and $5.00 per hectare for a placer claim. The fee is automatically calculated based on the selected cells while staking on MTO. The fee is charged for the entire cell, even though a portion may be unavailable due to a prior legacy title or alienated land.

You can easily search for a MINFILE occurrence on the MTO portal map by simply acquiring the coordinates from the MINFILE page for an occurrence. Input these coordinates in the MTO portal in the following format (“Easting Coordinate UTM” “Northing Coordinate UTM” Zone “Enter zone number”) to find the exact location of the occurrence and select the corresponding cell in the MTO Grid

Once the cell selection has been completed, selected cells will no longer be available to another person as the system runs in real time. You have 30 minutes to complete the transaction by remitting the fee electronically to MTO.

Upon confirmation of the payment, which is immediate, your title is issued. You will receive an immediate email confirming your transaction. A tenure number will be issued for the registered tenure and you can assign a name to your tenure. Choose wisely, as this cannot be changed later.

I have also included a link to step by step guide for claim acquisition process and using the MTO portal under resources.

Common Pitfalls

Make sure you conduct ample research prior to staking a claim by ensuring it does not overlap with the boundaries of a provincial park, protected area, reserve, recreation site Crown grants, legacy claims or on an animal habitat. You can use the tool called Imap BC (does not run on google chrome) to turn on various layers to get information about such areas. Crown grants are not displayed on MapPlace 2 . The holder of the crown grants has priority over a Mineral Title for the subsurface rights.

Use tools such as Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Google Earth to assess the terrain prior to staking it. Sometimes, a mineral occurrence can be found on top of a glacier or a peak of a mountain! You don’t want to stake those. You can also turn on the contour layers in several prospecting tools mentioned above to gain perspective about the topography.

Make use of all three sources to assess the terrain carefully as the quality of imagery can vary a lot. I have also included a coordinator converter under resources to convert UTM coordinates into decimal degrees. The decimal coordinates can be directly inputted into Google Maps, Bing Maps or Google Earth to visualize the location or view the satellite imagery.


As part of the tax reform, the government of B.C is offering Mining Exploration Tax Credit (“METC”) for conducting grassroots mineral exploration. In this way, companies can hire qualified geologists and engineers for developing technical reports that are required to determine the existence, location, extent or quality of a mineral resource in B.C.

The next article in the series will be published sometime later next week. The focus of this article will be maintaining a claim in good standing. Stay tuned for more exciting content.

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