Last week, a document emerged showing that the Santa Fe Opera had signed on to an agreement leasing nearly 27,000 acres worth of mineral rights to the energy exploration company, J Bar Cane. According to the Opera's General Director Charles MacKay, the Opera holds only 25 percent of the rights, while the College of Santa Fe holds 75 percent.
This is confirmed by a deed filed with the San Miguel County Clerk's office. In 2002, the rights were deeded to the Opera and CSF as part of the last will and testament of Rosemarie Shellaberger. SFR has not yet seen a copy of CSF's portion of the lease.
"I know we were approached in September of last year [about leasing the rights]," MacKay tells SFR, adding that he was hired in October 2008. "I believe the other [mineral rights] recipients were very desirous of pursuing the lease."
MacKay could not comment on what J Bar Cane expects to find out there on the 27,000 acres in Mora and San Miguel counties, nor could he speculate what sort of operations the company will install on the ground. The 27,000-acre agreement was struck between several parties. Attorney Scott Hall, who also represents Approach Operating, an energy company that has aggressively pursued drilling opportunities in Rio Arriba County, negotiated the deal.
The opera's board of directors approved the five-year lease agreement, MacKay says. Because the mineral rights were deeded to the opera, MacKay says the opera had little choice but to lease or sell the rights.
"There would have been many options if we owned the land, but when you inherit something as specific as mineral rights, I don't know there are a whole lot of options," MacKay says. "Mineral rights have value and it was the donor's intent that the value be translated into support for the Apprentice Program."
According to Opera's web site, the program for young opera singers has an annual budget of $1.5 million, the "major underwriter" of which is the Rosemarie Shellaberger Apprenticeship Fund--named after the same woman who bequeathed the mineral rights. MacKay says he doesn't know how much the J Bar Cane deal will net for the Opera, but he estimates the figure will be in five digits.
"There really has been no estimate," MacKay says. "I have been told that I shouldn't get my hopes up. that it's not going to be a large sum of money."
Staff at the City of Santa Fe, which now owns the College of Santa Fe, are currently researching the status of the mineral rights' ownership among the documents detailing the college's assets.