Saturday Snap – “Come listen to a story/’Bout a man named Jed”

I’ve written before about my conflicted feelings towards the oil industry.  In essence, it boils down to knowing how much of Saskatchewan’s current prosperity is directly linked to “black gold” versus also knowing the environmental, human, social and other impacts the oil industry has on society.

Those feelings could get a lot more conflicted soon.

Shea’s parents own a portion of the mineral rights for their farm (“mineral rights” are essentially a right to a percentage of any money generated by the minerals below the surface – in this case, oil).  They have signed on with a Saskatchewan-based firm who began drilling for oil on their land recently and there is now an operational pump jack just down the lane from where their farmhouse used to be (Shea’s folks moved to the nearby city of Weyburn a few years ago and sold the home acreage but still retain the farm land and mineral rights that go with it.)

We went out to see thew new pump jack this weekend and it’s pretty exciting for what that pump jack could potentially represent.  Although nothing is guaranteed, there are families making very large sums of money from their mineral rights.

I’ve already had a small taste of the Saskatchewan oil boom myself…

My grandfather owned land a couple hours from where Shea’s farm is which is still in a major oil-producing area in the southeast of the province.  Although he sold his mineral rights into a cooperative when he returned from the war, he retained surface rights (which entitles a landowner to receive an annual payment as compensation for allowing oil companies to use the surface of their farm land to build roads, put up pump jacks, etc. while reducing their ability to farm.) For the past number of years, my grandfather sent me (as well as my mom, my aunt and my sister) one of the surface right cheques he received each year for the oil wells on his land (he sold his farm but retained the surface rights.)  These cheques continue to come to our family even though my grandfather passed away a few years ago.

Surface rights aren’t as lucrative as mineral rights (Grandpa put it this way: “If I hadn’t given away my mineral rights after the war, you’d love me a lot more than you do!”  He went on to illustrate what he meant by telling the story of a Dutch friend who came to Canada after the war and bought a farm near his.  The Dutchman also wanted to put his mineral rights into the cooperative but ironically, wasn’t allowed to because he wasn’t a Canadian citizen.  Naturally, that man went on to become a multi-millionaire from his mineral rights!) but they have helped us with various purchases, home improvements, trips, etc. over the years.

So I think I’ve got a keen appreciation for both the potential benefits but also the “we were this close” missed opportunities within Saskatchewan’s oil industry.

But whatever happens with Shea’s parents’ well (or “wells” in the future, depending on what happens with this one?).  Or with my grandfather’s surface rights for that matter (one well went dry a couple years ago meaning the family received one less surface rights cheque each year), this is probably as close as any of us will get to a winning lottery ticket and the dream of what could be is almost as fun as the real thing! 😉

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