Farmers who own mineral rights near a potash mine in southeastern Saskatchewan want to be able to take advantage of them.
But a provincial policy enacted almost 20 years ago restricts drilling for oil on 72 sections of farmland around potash mines for safety reasons. Landowners who still own their mineral rights aren’t able to earn income from oil drilling or seismic testing because energy companies aren’t allowed on that land.
Trevor Bearance, who farms a century family farm near Rocanville, said he doesn’t dispute a call for caution in terms of mine worker and infrastructure safety, but said there should also be compensation for what he and about 190 others have been forced to give up.
Both the government and the potash companies have a responsibility to pay.
“If it’s necessary to do business then it’s a cost of doing business,” he said of the restricted areas.
The then-NDP government quietly established Potash Restricted Drilling Areas in 1996 with a notice in The Saskatchewan Gazette. Landowners have always maintained they weren’t properly notified or consulted.
In 2007 at the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, delegates passed a resolution noting landowners were not consulted nor given any explanation for the new law.
A class action lawsuit initiated in 2010 has stalled.
Bearance said the situation is further complicated by disagreement among landowners about whether the PRDAs should be eliminated.
As well, the issue of how much compensation is adequate must be resolved. The area in question is on the edge of the Bakken oil play.
“There’s sugarplums dancing in some mineral holders’ eyes thinking they’re going to get the biggest lottery they could have ever had a ticket on, and other people here who think it’s not nearly as much as they all dream it is,” he said.
The government might have the answer but it isn’t talking about this issue.