Back to Publications

An Overview of Oil, Gas, and Mineral Disposition Systems in Canada

Dr. Andrew R. Thompson, Proceedings of 32nd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1986)

Like the United States, the lands of the original colonies of Canada passed mostly into private ownership through generous allotments for railway, agricultural, forest, and mineral development. Only as you move westward and northward do you find large tracts of unalienated public lands. For example, in contrast to the situation in eastern Canada, very little land has passed into private ownership in the northern Territories. The consequence is that governments in Canada, as in the United States, still own vast public domains, particularly in the west and the north.1 While retaining the fee simple estate in these public lands in the Crown, government policy has encouraged limited alienation for oil, mining, and other development purposes through statutes providing for the issue of permits, licences, and leases of limited duration and subject to royalties, rentals, and other restrictive conditions.2

The pervasive nature of public land ownership in Canada means that these statutes governing the disposition of oil and gas and mineral interests are of highest significance for the petroleum and mining industries. Appendix I provides details of the laws governing public land oil and gas dispositions on Canada lands and Alberta. Appendix II summarizes the laws providing for mineral claims and leases on public lands in the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and British Columbia. W