Landowners seek compensation for no-drill zones- by CBC News Saskatoon (September 27, 2013)

Say province, potash companies rendered mineral rights ‘useless’

Today, oil rigs dot the landscape near Rocanville. They stop abruptly along 17,839 hectares of privately-owned farmland, sitting on top of PotashCorp Rocanville’s mine. 190 farmers own parcels of that land, as well as mineral rights. They tell CBC they’ve been cheated.

In 1995, the province passed a law, allowing potash companies to restrict drilling on farmland around mines. The Potash Restricted Drilling Areas (PRDAs) cover 72 sections of land around each potash mine. The only place the law was ever publicly noted before it passed was in the Saskatchewan Gazette, a weekly publication of the Saskatchewan legislature, which is available by subscription.

Landowners in the restricted zones say no one notified them of the change, nor was there any public consultation. They say they’ve never received any compensation for the lost rights.

Scott Norton said he only learned about PRDAs 11 years later, when an oil company stopped paying to lease land he owned. “An oil company leased our mineral rights in 2006 and they drilled on a quarter right beside it,” said Norton. “And they did hit oil and they were going to develop a well there and all of a sudden they disappeared.”

Norton said oil companies have approached PotashCorp, asking for permission to drill on private land above the Rocanville mine. Each time, he said, those requests has been denied.

For years, potash miners near Esterhazy and Rocanville have encountered flooding, deep underground. In a letter dated September 3, 2013, Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Tim McMillan told one landowner “these regulations are needed to ensure drilling operations do not risk infrastructure and workers’ safety.”

Norton said he understands the need for safety. But, he said, the PRDAs effectively make private mineral rights “worthless”.

“Every freeholder should have got letters that was affected,” Norton said. “Normally when you take people’s rights away, you pay them for it.”

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