As the world accelerates its shift toward new energies, the demand for strategic minerals like lithium has surged. Lithium is essential for battery technology in both existing and emerging products. The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin holds significant potential for lithium extraction from petro-brine, presenting new opportunities and challenges for stakeholders in the energy sector.

The Lithium Potential in Petro-Brine

Lithium is increasingly being found in petro-brine, a byproduct of oil and gas operations. Historically treated as waste, this brine contains significant concentrations of lithium, particularly in regions like Northeast British Columbia, central Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and southwest Manitoba. With the development of new technologies, lithium extraction from petro-brine has evolved, creating opportunities from wells targeting the highest lithium concentrations. This is attracting the attention of producers in legacy fields across the basin.

Navigating the Legal Landscape with Millennium Land Ltd.

One of the primary challenges in extracting lithium from petro-brine lies in the legal definition of “leased substances” under various petroleum and natural gas lease forms. Understanding these agreements is crucial for determining who holds the rights to extract lithium.

CAPL Leases and Lithium Rights

Standard form CAPL leases (88(1), 91, 99) typically include lithium contained in petro-brine as part of the “leased substances.” This means that lessees holding these leases have the exclusive right to explore, produce, and extract lithium. However, in more conventional leases where “leased substances” are limited to “petroleum, natural gas, and related hydrocarbons,” the rights to lithium remain with the mineral owners.

Freehold Mineral Rights

When dealing with freehold mineral rights, companies must approach the registered owner of the mines and minerals, the lessee of petroleum and natural gas, or, in some cases, the Crown. In Alberta and Saskatchewan the Crown owns all groundwater, and permits are required to use this water for lithium extraction. The legal intricacies can be daunting, but they are essential for ensuring that the rights to test, explore, and produce lithium are properly secured.

Current Developments and Regulatory Framework

Lithium exploration in Alberta and Saskatchewan has been intensifying. In Alberta, there have been companies who have drilled test wells and received significant funding from the federal government. In Saskatchewan, there are multiple companies who are actively drilling for lithium, with one company being the first to convert Crown lithium permits into leases.

The regulatory framework for lithium exploration and production is evolving. In Alberta, the Mineral Resource Development Act and Directive 090 does provide a centralized regulatory approach under the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). In Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Energy and Resources (MER) oversees lithium exploration and has released a guidebook for lithium operations.

Considerations for Lithium Project Development

The commercialization of lithium extraction depends on the development of direct lithium extraction (DLE) technologies. Companies are advancing their proprietary DLE processes. Lithium projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan will navigate the regulatory landscape, which is generally governed by subsurface mining laws.

Potential conflicts among subsurface participants, including competition for rights related to carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), helium, and other resources, will also need to be managed. Jurisdictions need to adapt regulations to prevent conflicts and promote co-development opportunities.

Millennium Land Ltd.: Your Partner in Mineral Rights and Leasing

At Millennium Land Ltd., we specialize in navigating the complexities of mineral rights and leasing. Our services include:

  • Lease Negotiation: We negotiate leases with mineral and surface owners to secure the rights necessary for lithium extraction.
  • Regulatory Compliance: We can provide guidance to ensure all regulatory requirements are met, including obtaining permits and conducting environmental assessments through our full scale environmental department.
  • Stakeholder Relations: We facilitate communication and negotiation with landowners, Indigenous communities, and other stakeholders to address concerns and build positive relationships.
  • Lease Management: We manage leases to ensure they remain in good standing and are compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Collaborating closely with legal teams and government officials to formulate and implement new regulatory guidelines for emerging industries, including lithium extraction and production.

Conclusion

The future of lithium extraction in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin holds immense promise. By navigating the legal landscape, addressing operational and environmental challenges, and fostering strong stakeholder relations, we can unlock the potential of this valuable resource.

If you are interested in exploring or need assistance contact Millennium Land Ltd. Let us help you navigate the complexities and unlock the potential of this growing industry.

Links:

Brine-Hosted Mineral Resources Development Rules – https://kings-printer.alberta.ca/1266.cfm?page=2023_017.cfm&leg_type=Regs&isbncln=9780779830886

Directive 90 – https://www.aer.ca/regulating-development/rules-and-directives/directives/directive-090

Saskatchewan Guidebook for Lithium – https://publications.saskatchewan.ca/api/v1/products/118348/formats/135989/download