Fear and uncertainty are spreading among property owners on North and South Pender islands because two local residents have taken out mining claims covering large expanses of private property.
"It's creating a huge fuss," said Gary Steeves, North Pender trustee for the Islands Trust.
"Two individuals have registered as free miners ... and staked claims to most of North Pender and a big chunk of South Pender, and that brings a huge amount of angst for property owners."
Local landowners are afraid of losing rights to their property and of having to pay fees to protect their property.
Private land ownership in B.C. does not include the rights to minerals or other resources under the surface.
Individuals can make claims on properties by obtaining a free miner certificate and paying a fee to the province.
Free miners are allowed to enter the property where they hold claims, but must give the landowner notice, and cannot enter agricultural land or areas around buildings.
More than 20 claims have been staked by Isaac McPhee and William Simons on the two islands, and some landowners say they have been told by the men to stop doing any work on their properties.
"My view is this is pure, well-orchestrated mischief," Steeves said.
"A lot of the people living here are retired and this is scaring the living daylights out of them."
However, McPhee said he has staked only a few claims and is doing nothing wrong.
"I am doing nothing illegal and nothing immoral. I intend to follow the letter of the law," he said.
"I am looking for peace and quiet to be left alone to conduct my business. I am getting a lot of flak from a lot of people for no good reason."
When asked what minerals he hoped to mine, McPhee replied: "I am hoping to find fortunes."
Pender resident John Hastings is one of those whose property has been staked and, like many others, he has hired a lawyer.
"My lawyers couldn't believe this could possibly happen, but they're all looking into it, because they haven't seen this before."
Hastings said he has told McPhee and Simons he will meet them at his property line - and will call police if they trespass.
"Permits have to be in place and all sorts of things before they can come on the property," Hastings said.
An Energy and Mines Ministry statement said that prior to mechanically disturbing a property for the purpose of exploration or prospecting, a claim holder must apply for, and receive, a Mines Act permit.
"The ministry has not received any recent applications for claims on Pender Island," a spokesman said.
If the landowner and claim holder cannot agree, there is a provincial arbitration process, according to the statement.
The Islands Trust policy statement appears to discourage any mining within the Trust area, said David Marlor, Islands Trust local planning director.
However, it is not known how that fits with the B.C. Mineral Tenure Act.
"We are looking into how the acts relate to each other," he said.
"It hasn't really come up before."
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