Mining battle rages over tiny plot on Pender Island

No stretch of imagination would make Gary Steeves’ small lot on North Pender Island fit into the provincial criteria for a commercial mining operation.

But that has not stopped would-be miner William Simons from staking a claim on the 0.16 hectare property and has not prevented the Mineral Titles branch of the Energy and Mines Ministry from informing Steeves that Simons will be carrying out mining exploration activities between April 1 and July 1.

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“This is absolutely absurd. I live on a postage stamp waterfront lot in Magic Lake Estates and the regulations say you can’t carry out exploration or exploration activity within 75 metres of the dwelling area in active use,” said Steeves, North Pender trustee for the Islands Trust.

The entire lot is within 75-metres of the dwelling area, Steeves said.

“None of my neighbours have received a notice, so I think this is just to harass me because I am a trustee.”

Simons and Isaac McPhee, another Pender resident, previously staked more than 20 claims on large swaths of private property on North and South Pender. Steeves has been at the forefront of an effort to have the Mineral Tenure Act changed to exclude the Gulf Islands from mineral exploration and extraction.

This week the Islands Trust executive committee voted to write to the province asking for the Gulf Islands to be excluded from the Mineral Tenure Act that allows claims to be staked on private property.

The provincial legislation runs counter to the long-standing Islands Trust policy statement that there should be no mineral extraction in the Trust area.

Islands Trust Council chairwoman Sheila Malcolmson said that policy was originally signed by the province. However, the Islands Trust rules are superseded by the provincial law.

“We just want to articulate our concern and the position of the Trust council and we want to put this back on the plate of the provincial government where it belongs,” she said.

A ministry statement said the request from the Trust has not arrived, but many areas of the province, including Greater Victoria and Greater Vancouver, have “no registration” areas where claims cannot be staked.

“If mineral claims are expropriated or taken, the claim holder may be required to provide compensation,” it says.

A provincial mines inspector will visit Pender to assess the amount and type of activity that could be conducted in the claim area, the statement said. “This assessment will further allow us to better understand the nature of the concerns.”

Meanwhile, Steeves is fuming about the prospect of Simons conducting “ground radar activities” beside his driveway and does not know why the ministry issued the landowners notification.

“No thoughtful free miner, knowledgeable of the restrictions . . . of the Mineral Tenure Act would serve landowner notification when such is not permitted on a lot of my shape and size,” Steeves said in an email to the branch.

“The fact that, as a publicly elected local government official, I have represented property owners opposed to Mr. Simons’ activity is relevant. This action by Bill Simons is harassment and I demand action by the Mines Branch to stop these activities on Pender Island.”

Simons did not return calls Friday. McPhee, in a previous interview would not say what they were hoping to mine.

“I am hoping to find fortunes,” he said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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