Murdoch to Elliot (Assistant Under-Secretary)
8th August 1865
I have to acknowledge your letter of 31st ultimo, with a despatch from the Governor of British Columbia enclosing an Ordinance passed by the Legislature of that Colony entitled, An Ordinance to amend and Consolidate the Gold Mining Laws.
2. The Attorney General states that this Ordinance is rather a re-arrangement of the various proclamations existing on the subjectManuscript image than the enactment of a new Law. The great bulk of it consists of minute regulations relating to the establishment of Miners rights and the manner of working Mines. It provides for the appointment of Gold Commissioners and the establishment of Miners Courts in which the Commissioner is to preside—it gives the Commissioner power to decide all cases brought before him without a jury—and to enforce his decisions in the same manner as a Judge of the Supreme Court. But in cases exceeding £50 in value it allowsManuscript image an appeal to the Supreme Court. In respect to Miners the Ordinance provides that every person over 16 years of age shall be entitled to hold a claim—that a Miners Certificate shall be for either one or three years at a fee of £1 for each year—that 3 days but not more shall be allowed for the renewal of an expired Certificate, and that during the currency of the Certificate every free Miner shall have a right to enter and mine on any unoccupied Crown Lands. Miners "locating" claims are bound to register them within 3 days if within 10 Miles of the Office—with an allowance ofManuscript image one day additional for each additional 10 miles distance. Claims are to be registered annually. In case of dispute priority of registration is to give prima facie a title. Transfer of claims are to be by written documents registered with the Gold Commissioners. A miner may hold any number of claims by purchase, and one quartz and one other claim by preemption—he may also hold a claim on each Hill, creek or ravine, provided they be not less than 10 Miles apart. Adjacent claim holders may be allowed by the Gold Commissioner an entry into a claim, if absolutelyManuscript image necessary to the working of their own claims, upon such terms as may appear reasonable to the Commissioner. Claims unworked for 72 hours (excluding Sundays and Holidays) are, except sickness or reasonable cause be shown, to be considered abandoned. The size of claims and the mode of working them according to the features of the Country is prescribed—and provision is made for the drainage of Mines. Mining Partnerships are recognized and Limited Liability upon the cost book system is provided for. The Commissioner is empowered to grant leases for a period not exceeding 10 years of extentsManuscript image varying according to the nature of the land—such leases to be understood to contain a reservation of the rights of the Crown and of rights of way and water to the public, and also to contain a convenant by the Lessee to work the mine "in a minerlike way." The Commissioner is also authorized to give a right for a term not exceeding 5 years to divert any creek, stream or Lake, and regulations are made to secure the rights of others and to provide for the settling of disputes. The size of ditches and rules for measuring the water are laid down, and also the mode of compensation for damage done toManuscript image ditches or watercourses in the construction of roads or other works, and for damage done by the giving way of ditches or water privileges. The Commissioner is empowered on the requisition of not less than 101 free Miners in a district to constitute a "Mining Board," to consist of not less than 6 nor more than 12 Miners of the district, elected by the votes of the Miners. The Board is to have power to make Bylaws to be approved by the Gold Commissioner, but the Governor is empowered by an order under the public Seal at any time to dissolve any Mining Board. Lastly provision is made for enforcingManuscript image penalties for infractions of the Law, but rights acquired previous to its enactment are not to be affected by it.
3. I have not attempted to give a detailed abstract of all the 149 clauses which this Ordinance contains, but have only noticed those which appear the more important or which embody principles. It appears to me that a great portion of the Ordinance would have been more conveniently promulgated in the shape of regulations by the Governor, the Legislature conferring upon himManuscript image the power to make such regulations. This would have allowed of the more easy revision and alteration of such as in so new a state of things must constantly require reconsideration. At the same time I admit at once that the Local Authorities must be considered the best judges of the form in which a Law of this kind should be framed, and as the convenience of regulations is self evident there were I presume objections to that course of proceeding which do not occur to me.
4. In other respects it doesManuscript image not occur to me that the Ordinance is open to objection, and I would accordingly recommend that it should be sanctioned.
I have the honor to be
Your Obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
VJ 9 Aug
Sanction & in announcing sanction send out copy of parag 3 of this report.
FR 9/9
EC 11