The appeal by a mining licence applicant (Vinland) from a Supreme Court decision returning Vinland’s appeal to the Mineral Rights Adjudication Board (the “Board”) for re-determination was dismissed where the Court found that the Board had jurisdiction to determine the Appeal but had failed to provide sufficient reasons in reaching its decision

Administrative law – Natural resources – Mining leases – Staking requirements – Judicial review – Jurisdiction of tribunal – Natural justice – Failure to provide reasons – Evidence – Burden of proof

Newfoundland and Labrador (Mineral Claims Recorder) v. Vinland Resources Ltd., [2008] N.J. No. 48, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court – Court of Appeal, February 18, 2008, B.G. Welsh, K.J. Mercer and L.D. Barry

In 2000, Vinland applied for a map staked licence. The Mineral Claims Recorder had refused the application advising Vinland that the lands were not open for staking because they had been alienated by the Crown to Anglo-Newfoundland pursuant to an agreement under which the Crown granted Anglo-Newfoundland a 99-year lease renewable at Anglo-Newfoundland’s option. Vinland grieved the Recorder’s decision to the Board. The Board reviewed 200 historical documents concluding the Recorder should not have rejected Vinland’s application. The Recorder, Noranda and Phelps-Dodge, (companies claiming mineral rights to the lands acquired from successors to Anglo-Newfoundland), appealed the Board’s decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the Board had jurisdiction to hear Vinland’s appeal but concluded the Board erred in imposing the burden of proof on the Recorder and in failing to provide adequate reasons for its decision. The matter was referred back to the Board for re-hearing. Noranda and Phelps-Dodge did not want the matter remitted to the Board but requested that the Appeal Court make a determination on Vinland’s appeal. Vinland submitted the Court erred in finding errors on the part of the Board.

The Court of Appeal dismissed Vinland’s appeal and the cross appeal by Noranda and Phelps-Dodge. The Court of Appeal agreed that the Board had jurisdiction to hear Vinland’s appeal and that it was open to the Board to determine whether the lands in dispute were open for staking. The Court found that the Recorder did not bear the onus of showing the public documents upon which it based its decision were authentic and accurate and that Vinland bore the burden of showing they were not if it chose to challenge their authenticity. The Court of Appeal agreed with the lower Court that the Board’s reasons for its decisions were inadequate and it was impossible from the Reasons to determine what evidence was relied upon by the Board, what evidence was ignored and how the Board decided between the two. Consequently, the Court was unable to conclude the Board considered all the relevant evidence. The Appeal Court directed the Board to consider Vinland’s appeal in the context of its finding that the Pulp and Paper Act permitted the exclusion of the disputed lands from those lands selected by Anglo-Newfoundland for its lease.

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