Mineral Property Law as Exclusion: Obfuscating Mineral Ownership

Authors: Sophia Ford*, Michigan Technological University
Topics: Legal Geography, Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: human rights, Indigenous sovereignty, mineral rights, critical geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The southern border of Anishinaabeg gichigami (Lake Superior) are Ojibwe homelands and part of 1836, 1842 and 1854 Treaties, which ceded land while maintaining the right to hunt, fish and gather. This resource rich region lends a complex history of land dispossession, industrial copper mining, capitalist accumulation and obfuscated ownership. This case study brings into sharp relief exclusionary processes still at play in access to mineral ownership information. Mineral property law is derived from property law, which Bhandar (2018) has shown serves as a mechanism to ensure further colonial rule and industrial capitalism. Property law co-emerges with racialized practices of erasure and removal, which creates racial and lived inequalities, especially in mineral rich regions. This paper contextualizes this history of dispossession in relation to contemporary mineral law, exploring how mineral law furnishes land grabs. Drawing on archival and geospatial analysis, I uncover how mineral law continues to protect mining interests and mineral owners by concealing ownership information. Moreover, in this area mineral ownership supersedes surface ownership. This research places mineral ownership in critical property studies to trace the historical formation of mineral ownership to contemporary challenges in exercising sovereignty. I find that the result of property law and mineral ownership results in disproportionate access to information, in this case mineral ownership records, which impedes the exercise of sovereignty. This research is fits in a larger context of addressing ongoing erasure from settler colonialism. Bhandar, B. (2018). Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership. Duke University Press.

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