Pan Pacific Aggregates has no intention of mining any of the residential properties the company has staked for mineral tenure, according to Pan Pacific geologist Richard Munroe.
"We at no time had any interest in doing any kind of work that involved digging up anybody's home," Munroe told a packed crowd at Coopers Green Community Hall in Halfmoon Bay May 16. "We have not touched anybody's property. We're simply holding it. We haven't upset anybody by walking through their property with a backhoe or digging any holes."
Munroe made his comments at a forum on mining claims organized by Green Party leader Adriane Carr. Carr said she called the meeting in response to concerns from the public about the 19,000 hectares staked by Pan Pacific in January, using the B.C. government's new online claims staking system. Pan Pacific's claims cover much of Sechelt Peninsula.
Sechelt Indian Band chief Stan Dixon and past chief Garry Feschuk raised the spectre of a lawsuit over aboriginal title.
"The Haida case was just a few months ago," said Dixon. "It's not even half a year, and they're breaking that agreement."
In response to Munroe's statement that Pan Pacific intends to consult with the Sechelts, Feschuk said it's too late in the process.
"You've staked a big portion of our territory. You called it Crown land, but there's underlying aboriginal title," said Feschuk. "If the Sechelt Nation opposes this, will you continue to go forward?"
Munroe replied, "There is an opportunity for everyone to benefit an opportunity for people to have their sons and daughters employed."
Maureen Clayton, the Liberal candidate for this riding, also attended the meeting but did not speak.
Munroe emphasized Pan Pacific followed the law in staking its claim. He said the company is now in the exploration stage, with four geologists working "to determine what the minerals might be." He said drilling began in early May, and the main exploration so far has been "high up in the hills," above 2,600 feet, on land that previously had been clear cut.
Pan Pacific's aim is to develop a quarry or quarries for dimension stone blocks, Munroe said. He described this as a "low value, high volume business," which means it would not be economic to pay compensation for mining residential property. The reason for staking the whole peninsula, he said, is to ensure no other company has claims in this area.
"We want to become the only artist on the canvas for mineral development in this region," said Munroe. "We expect to be here for many, many years. You don't have to worry about any other company."
Fred Herbert, a retired lawyer living in Halfmoon Bay, said the laws of B.C. exempt buildings, residential lots, orchards, heritage property and some other land from mining claims.
"My property isn't at risk. Nor is the property of anyone in this room," said Herbert.
But Carr said she has a legal opinion from the Sierra Legal Defence Fund that a 2002 change to the Mineral Act has removed the rights of property owners to some degree.
Carr ended the meeting by circulating a petition asking the B.C. government to prohibit claims staking of private property.