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Monday, January 18 2021
As of 2020, there were about 3,891,000 mining claims filed on federal lands across open-for-mineral-entry states. If you want to join the ranks, the following will be extremely helpful. This information was published in November 2020 by Kevin Hoagland, Executive Director of Development, Gold Prospectors Association of America (GPAA).
A mining claim is a selected parcel of Federal land, valuable for a specific mineral deposit(s), for which you have asserted a right of possession under the General Mining Law. Your right to the claim is for the extraction of those minerals. The rights granted by a mining claim protect against a challenge by the United States and other claimants— but only after the discovery of a valuable mineral deposit. Your claim is not protected from the government or other miners until you have a discovery of a valuable mineral, recorded in the county of location, and have filed a mining claim with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). There are two types of mining claims—lode and placer. In addition, mill sites and tunnel sites may be located to provide support facilities for load and placer mining claims.
Once all the steps— locate, record and file— are properly completed, then you have rights to the minerals only on the claim. You cannot live on a claim unless you have a Plan of Operations (POO) that includes project occupancy, and that will allow only limited occupancy during the duration of the project and is most likely going to be added into the required bond of the project within the POO and the Notice of Intent (NOI). If you do not have an occupancy, then you are required to follow the stay limits of 14 days in any given 28-day period.
You cannot keep other people off your claim with the exception of people trying or working to recover the valuable minerals that are on your claim. This is clearly defined as mineral trespass and is enforceable. However, if people want to use your claim for day-use recreation, or for camping or hunting at various times of the year, you cannot legally not allow them ingress to your claim unless you have an in-place POO that designates a mining area and other areas that support your efforts to recover valuable minerals. The BLM will work with a POO holder to include as much of the claim as possible to keep ingress limited for safety.
Who Can File a Mining Claim?
A person who is a citizen of the USA or has declared an intention to become a citizen with the Immigration and Naturalization Service may locate and hold a mining claim or site. A corporation organized under state law is considered a citizen and may locate and hold a mining claim or site. A corporation is held to the same standards as a citizen. There is no limit to the number of claims and sites that you may hold as a qualified claimant, as long as you meet the General Mining Law requirements of the claims filed after a valuable mineral find has been located.
Where Can You File a Mining Claim?
As of this writing, there are 19 states where you may locate mining claims or sites: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Who Maintains All of This?
The BLM manages the surface of public lands in these states and the Forest Service manages the surface of National Forest System lands. The BLM is responsible for the subsurface minerals on both its public lands and National Forest System lands. You may prospect and locate mining claims and sites only on lands open to mineral entry. Some recreational areas are open to the public for casual prospecting (usually just for gold panning by hand); these areas would not be considered open to mineral entry, therefore, you cannot file a claim in certain recreational areas.
How to File a Mining Claim
To file a claim, you need to start by prospecting to find a valuable recoverable metal. There are a number of ways to get started in finding an area open for claiming. Using computer programs such as the BLM LR2000, you can get a much better view of what is and is not open for claiming. After you have prospected and found gold or other mineral you wish to extract, you will want to stake a claim.
Using your GPS or a topo map and compass, figure out exactly where you are. Set your Point of Discovery (POD), then find your corners. A placer claim is 20 acres— a rectangle that is 660 feet from west to east, and 1,320 feet from north to south. Situate your claim as close to the topo section lines as possible and create your location notice and draw your map.
The map must include the township (an area of 36 miles), the range (the area either east or west of the principle meridian, which is on the bottom of each topo map), and section (each section is 1 square mile; 36 sections make up a township). Within the section there are quarters and halves that are broken down to the smallest part, which is 20 acres.
TIP: Walk the entire claim and make small rock cairns at each of the corners based on GPS to find the spots more easily when you come back to mark the corners. Knowing how far it is from the POD to the NW corner and SE corner is also helpful. You will need that info. when recording and filing your claim.
Once recorded, take your recorded document to the BLM office closest to you that accepts filings. Present your county-recorded documents and your map. The BLM will quickly review your paperwork, assign a Mining Claim (MC) number, take your money and hand you back copies of your docs with the MC number for your records and to post on the claim.
Ask both the county and the BLM what is acceptable for your markers and what is required. In some states, all that is required is the POD and not corners. But your MC paperwork at the POD MUST have the distance from the POD to a corner or distance to a Public Lands Survey (PLS) Marker. You have now recorded and filed and have an approved mining claim. Set your corners and markers and you’re done! Mining Claim Signs found here.
CONGRATULATIONS and good luck getting the GOLD!
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