In the Province of Alberta, which is predominantly where Repsol’s Canadian acreage is located, most land has separate surface and mineral titles, each with their own set of rights. The surface title gives the landowner control of the surface and the rights to work it, while the mineral title gives the mineral rights owner the right to explore for and produce petroleum and natural gas (PNG). The Alberta Government holds around 81% of the mineral rights within the Province and the remaining 19% are held by the Federal Government on behalf of First Nations or are the locations of National Parks, Military Bases or held by individuals and private companies.
Alberta’s tenure system facilitates the leasing of surface and mineral rights which enables companies to explore for and develop PNG in Alberta. The identification of land tenure rights holders is governed by “The Land Titles Act”, which provides the legislative framework to register land related documents, both surface and mineral, that create, encumber, transfer and terminate legal rights in real property. Under this Torrens system, the Alberta Government has custody of all original titles, documents and plans and has the legal responsibility for the validity and security of all registered land title information. The Alberta Land Titles Registry is a public registry.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms the aboriginal and treaty rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indians, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada. This constitutional protection of rights creates the Crown obligation to consult when activity might infringe on those rights.
Our approach to identifying surface land rights in Alberta is aligned with the principles set out by the Land Titles Act, and consequently generates the following land acquisition process:
Step 1: Scout / Survey
The first step in identifying the legitimate surface land tenure rights holder is to conduct a survey. Governed by Alberta’s “Surveys Act” and “Surface Rights Act”, a survey allows Repsol to identify the exact location of the proposed well site, access road, pipeline, or facility and the surface area required.
For Crown lands (surface) data is essential to the management of agreements that cover publicly owned resources. In Alberta the surface land tenure right holder data is accessed through the Geographic Land Information Management and Planning System (GLIMPS database).
Step 2: Public Information and consultation
Repsol develops an extensive Participant Involvement Program, giving consideration to all parties who may be directly and adversely impacted by the project. The information package must be uploaded to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) website allowing a minimum of 15 days for the public to review, consider and register concerns. The package must include an environmental impact assessment, stakeholder impact assessment, landscape analysis tool report, Land Standing Report according to the Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), individual ownership plan and Indigenous people’s notification maps.
Step 3: Indigenous community consultation
Alberta's management and development of provincial Crown lands and natural resources is subject to its legal and constitutional duty to consult First Nations and Metis Settlements and, where appropriate, accommodate their interests when Crown decisions may adversely impact their continued exercise of constitutionally protected Treaty rights and traditional uses. Traditional First Nation uses of land include burial grounds, gathering sites, and historical or ceremonial locations and do not refer to proprietary interests in the land.
As proponent of an energy application, Repsol engages in the consultation process as directed by the Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO). First Nations and Metis Settlement consultation (FNC) is done in parallel with the surface acquisition of Crown land. Once the location is surveyed, a consultation package is sent to the community and a site visit is typically conducted. The site visit provides an opportunity for the community to conduct a field assessment of the land and identify any potential areas of concerns, such as significant cultural sites or vegetation used for cultural and traditional practices. Once consultation with the community is completed, we move forward with requesting the ACO consider the adequacy of our consultation with the community. The Adequacy Decision (approval from the ACO) must be submitted with our application for a surface lease and access to the land. If we do not have FNC Adequacy, we cannot submit our surface lease application.
Step 4: Negotiations
The Surface Rights Board (SRB) is a quasi-judicial tribunal that grants right of entry and assists landowners, occupants, and operators to resolve disputes about compensation required for access to private or occupied Crown land to develop subsurface resources.
The AER encourages a negotiated, written agreement that meets the needs of both parties in order to promote a good working relationship for the life of the proposed project. Further information related to compensation agreements is available from the SRB or AER field centre.
For land-related disputes with Indigenous communities, the Government of Canada, Alberta and First Nations work together to negotiate a resolution. While land claims are a federal responsibility, Alberta has a constitutional obligation under the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) to transfer back to Canada unoccupied Crown lands necessary to allow Canada to settle claims with First Nations. The settlement of land claims provides enhanced certainty for the parties involved and for industry with respect to resource development.
Step 5: Regulator Application
When Repsol has complied with the public information and consultation and Indigenous community consultation requirements regarding the project, Repsol can then apply to the AER for a license to proceed with development.
Step 6: Licensing
If the application meets all legal and technical requirements, the AER will then grant the license.