From Exploration to Production

Online Map Staking 

What is being proposed? 

The Bill gives new powers for online map staking to be instituted in the Northwest Territories once supporting regulations and information system infrastructure are developed.

Online map staking is when explorers select the areas they wish to explore for minerals from an online map rather than the traditional physical staking on the land.

This would mean a significant change in the way people get the right to explore for minerals. Today, people need to physically go to the place where they want to get rights to explore, and put physical posts in the ground. This is called “Staking a Claim.”

How will this be done? 

Developing everything necessary to implement online map staking will likely take years. This is common to other jurisdictions that have moved to online map staking.

Over this time, precise supporting regulations will be developed to define exactly how companies and people will be able to select claims online, the costs for doing so, and any other measures to protect the overall vision of land use in the NWT under this new system. This would include regulations to protect against excessive speculation.

Necessary technology will also be developed to make sure the maps being used are accurate and useful to select claims. Regulations will also need to be developed to discourage speculation.

People will also need to be informed on how to use the system. This means the Department will need to develop information and awareness materials as well.

While transitioning to this system, the traditional system of ground-staking would remain in place.

It is important to note that even though online map staking eliminates the need for going out and putting posts in the ground, it doesn’t mean that on-the-ground prospecting will completely disappear.

Online map staking would still require prospectors’ to know what areas they should select as their claim areas on the map. This will be particularly important in the Northwest Territories, where many lands have not yet been explored. Physical sampling would likely still be desirable.


The process for staking claims has not changed in a long time. Online map staking would help modernize the NWT’s mineral exploration landscape using technology which is now becoming commonplace in jurisdictions across the globe.

Online map staking would mean lower costs for companies looking to explore in the NWT; fewer safety risks for those going out on-the-land in unforgiving conditions; and less uncertainty for those staking Mineral Claims and wondering whether their claims might unknowingly overlap with others.

It could also limit some disturbance on the land, potentially meaning less impact on wildlife.

Furthermore, the money which in the past would have been invested in placing posts in the ground could instead be spent on mineral exploration activities that add more value.

Implementing this over a long period is a standard when introducing this kind of change. Ontario’s, for example, took roughly nine years after passing their mining act modernization into law.

Using ground-staking during the online map staking transition provides a predictable, well-understood way for explorers to identify their interests in minerals across the Northwest Territories while the territorial government gets this important change right. Working to avoid excessive speculation through regulation will ensure this measure remains consistent with the Northwest Territories’ overall vision for land use in the territory.

Mineral Claims 

What is being proposed? 

The Bill provides the power to set and change the rules for staking and maintaining Mineral Claims in the Northwest Territories.

A Mineral Claim is a particular area where a mineral explorer is the only one allowed to explore for minerals under the ground. This is one kind of interest in minerals. It is important to note that it does not give those explorers the sole right to the surface area.

"Staking" a Mineral Claim refers to the process of how mineral explorers identify the area they want to obtain an interest in minerals.

Under the Bill, Mineral Claims would be able to be staked on all public lands in the Northwest Territories that have not been withdrawn from staking for any reason. Areas where mineral exploration is not allowed in land use plans or cemeteries, for example, are not open to staking.

Companies will need to complete exploration work on an annual basis to maintain their claims — the idea being that if those explorers are going to have the mineral rights to these areas, they should be actively exploring for them.

The Bill also provides for grouping of Mineral Claims. This means that if a mineral explorer has multiple Mineral Claims which border one another, the work on those Mineral Claims could be spread across all of those claims.

For example, if something particularly promising was found on one Mineral Claim, the explorer could choose to invest a large amount on that particular Mineral Claim and not as much on the others. As long as the total amount of exploration work done meets the overall work requirements for all of the claims, then the requirements would have been met.

The new Bill also gives the Minister in charge of minerals —the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment — the ability to require a training and awareness program be completed by those who prospect in the Northwest Territories.

This could include information like cultural awareness, the Northwest Territories’ geology, and local history to help build informed relationships between explorers and communities. (See the “Building Relationships” package for more information).

How will this be done? 

The specific requirements will be set out in the regulations under the Mineral Resources Act

It is the intent that eventually, the Northwest Territories will move to online map staking. Until then, it is the intent that the process for staking will remain the same as it is today under the existing Mining Regulations, though with some slight changes set out through policy, such as the addition of public notifications.

The following steps will need to be followed:

  1. Get a Prospector’s Licence: The person or company that wants to prospect and may be staking claims would need to get a valid Prospector’s Licence for the Northwest Territories. This requires the person to be  19 years-or-older. The license would be obtained from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment’s Mining Recorder’s Office. It is intended that under the new Act that to get a licence, the prospector would need to receive awareness training materials designed for mineral explorers.
  2. Stake the claim: Select the area where the explorer wants to explore for minerals, mark the area, and submit that claim to the Government of the Northwest Territories.
  3. Record the claim: The size, location, an application form, and a per-hectare fee need to be submitted to, and approved by, the Government of the Northwest Territories before the Mineral Claim becomes official. These would be collected and recorded by the Mining Recorder’s Office.


This proposed regime ensures the GNWT has the necessary regulatory authorities over the way Mineral Claims are staked and recorded. The language in the Bill empowers the GNWT to respond to needs identified in the future substantially more than is currently possible under the NWT Lands Act.

Keeping the process similar in the beginning will keep it predictable and well-known in the industry. It brings certainty and continuity to both the mineral exploration industry, and the local businesses servicing them.

Until Online Map Staking is fully-implemented as empowered by this legislation, this will mean putting physical staking posts or other markings allowed under regulations setting the northern, southern, eastern, and western borders of the claim. The claim would be limited in size. That size would be set in the regulations.

To maintain the Mineral Claim, exploration work must be completed or a fee needs to be paid instead of that work. A detailed description of the work completed and geological information gained from that work must be submitted along with a cost breakdown annually. This geological information is kept confidential for three years. After that ends, it is no longer confidential and becomes public geoscience knowledge.

A Mineral Claim will be time-limited — meaning it must become a Mineral Lease after a certain period.

Mineral Leases

What is being proposed? 

The Bill empowers the Government of the Northwest Territories to make and enforce rules surrounding Mineral Leases.

A Mineral Lease is meant to be the “next step” for mineral exploration. It cannot be reached without the requirements of a Mineral Claim being met.

A significant amount of exploration work would need to be completed and a mineral or resource deposit would need to be defined before a Mineral Lease could be declared.

It is also intended that a certain amount of work would need to be reported on Mineral Leases. This is a change from the current regulations.

How will this be done? 

The precise requirements for Mineral Leases will be defined in regulations. Indigenous governments and organizations, industry, subject matter experts, and stakeholders will be engaged as these are developed. However, some basics can be counted upon.

What this proposed Bill would require are a few basics for production to commence and continue:

  • A specific type and value of work will be required to be completed for a Mineral Claim to qualify for a Mineral Lease.
  • A defined mineral resource — something with immediate or future economic value — will need to be identified for the Mineral Claim to become a Mineral Lease.
  • Mineral Leases will be time-limited, but renewable if requirements are met.
  • Those with Mineral Leases will be required to submit geological information as knowledge of the site advances.
  • The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will be responsible for collecting and verifying the information and data received.


Enabling regulation-making power for Mineral Leases means the territorial government can make changes to ensure the process of getting and maintaining Mineral Leases balances both the public interest of the NWT and the economic realities of doing business in the North.

Producing Minerals

What is being proposed?

The Bill empowers the territorial government to make regulations to govern the steps leading up to opening a mine in the Northwest Territories.

As with all measures under this proposed Mineral Resources Act, the provisions within it are meant to complement the existing regulatory system, not duplicate or override it. The day-to-day operations of mines will continue to be governed by other laws and regulations already in place.

This means all other rules and regulations regarding the construction and operation of mines need to be followed under other legislation, and all permits and permissions will need to be gained from the regulatory system in the NWT for a mine to move to production.

For example, a company wishing to develop a mine needs to get the necessary surface rights as laid out under the NWT Lands Act, and permits and licences related to environmental protection, wildlife conservation, and water use would still need to be secured.

Also proposed is the inclusion of a new Production Licence. This Production Licence would require companies to submit information on the Mineral Lease to the GNWT before beginning to produce minerals. The producer would need to maintain their obligations under a Production Licence to continue producing.

How will this be done?

In practice, the processes of producing minerals, protecting the environment throughout operations, and cleaning up after a mine stops producing are already mainly regulated by other legislation.

What this proposed Bill would require are a few basics for production to commence and continue:

  • Necessary licences, permits, and approvals have been obtained under all other legislation, rules, or agreements.
  • The requirements of holding a Mineral Claim or Mineral Lease have been met under this legislation.
  • An agreement to provide benefits throughout the life of the project to NWT residents has been negotiated with the GNWT with reporting completed on a defined schedule.
  • A Benefits Agreement of some kind has been signed with Indigenous Governments. The Minister would verify this.
  • A Production Licence is maintained with all information required under the regulations. This would be approved by the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.
  • All required payments are made to the Government of the Northwest Territories within the required time.
  • All information required by regulations must be submitted to the GNWT.
  • All of these requirements are upheld throughout the whole period of production.

The specifics of what will be required of a Production Licence will be set out in supporting regulations. Indigenous governments, industry, and other stakeholders will be kept apprised of these regulations as they are developed.


Given that much of production is already regulated under other rules and regulations (see the Sharing Responsibility for Natural Resources package for more information), not many provisions were required under this Bill to complement what already exists.

The intent of requiring a Production Licence is intended to provide one last checkpoint before production begins, collect information in the public interest, and give the GNWT a better understanding of what a company intends to do while producing.