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Most treasure hunters have heard of a mining claim, and have some idea of what it is but do not know how to set a claim as set forth by the federal government and to be specific by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Keep in mind that there are also state rules for staking a claim on state owned land. I am going to discuss the nuance of setting a federal mining claim, and hopefully by the end of this article you will have a bit clearer view of this somewhat complicated issue.
A mining claim, or a mineral claim provides some security for the owner of the claim to invest the time and money developing the claim area. Mineral claim laws vary from state to state and can be distinguished from federal rules. Claims staked on federal land are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). State claims are staked on state owned and managed lands. Not all federal lands are available for staking a claim such as areas withdrawn from mineral entry include National Parks, National Monuments, Native American reservations, most reclamation projects, military reservations, scientific testing areas, most wildlife protection areas (such as Federal wildlife refuges), and lands withdrawn from mineral entry for other reasons. A prospector also can only stake a claim for the mineral in which the federal government owns. The claimant does not own the surface of the land such as the gravel, sand, rocks or water. A mining claim grants the holder of the claim with the preferential right to extract valuable minerals within the claim site, and for the process of obtaining the minerals such as prospecting, exploration and development of the claim. Mining gold is the most common reason for the staking of a mining claim, also you need to keep in mind while you can do prospecting on private property (with permission from the owner), you cannot file a claim on private property.
The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended (30 USC 29 and 43 CFR 3860), provides the successful mining claimant the right to patent (acquire absolute title to the land) mining claims or sites if they meet the statutory requirements. To meet this requirement, the successful claimant must:
1. For mining claims, demonstrate a physical exposure of a valuable (commercial) mineral deposit (the discovery) as defined by meeting the Department’s Prudent Man Rule and Marketability Test
2. For mill sites, show proper use or occupancy for uses to support a mining operation and be located on non-mineral land.
3. Have clear title to the mining claim (lode or placer) or mill site.
4. Have assessment work and/or maintenance fees current and performed at least $500 worth of improvements (not labor) for each claim (not required for mill sites).
5. Meet the requirements of the Department’s regulations for mineral patenting as shown in the Code of Federal Regulations at 43 CFR 3861, et seq.
6. Pay the required processing fees and purchase price for the land applied for.
The Prudent Man Rule was first defined in (Castle v Womble, 19 LD 455 (1894), where the Secretary of the Interior held that: “Where minerals have been found and the evidence is of such a character that a person of ordinary prudence would be justified in the further expenditure of his labor and means, with a reasonable prospect of success, in developing a valuable mine, the requirements of the statute have been met.”
The Marketability Test was first defined by the Secretary of the Interior in Solicitor’s Opinion, 54 ID 294 (1933): “…a mineral locator or applicant, to justify his possession must show by reason of accessibility, bona fides in development, proximity to market, existence of present demand, and other factors, the deposit is of such value that it can be mined, removed, and disposed of at a profit.”
A lode claim, also known in California as a quartz claim, is a claim over a hard-rock deposit. Lode deposits are mineral deposits found in rock that commonly must be blasted and milled to remove the valuable minerals. Lode claims cover classic veins or lodes having well-defined boundaries and also include other rock in-place bearing valuable mineral deposits.
A placer claim is a claim over mineral-bearing sand or gravel, which is often a stream or river. A placer claim covers all those deposits not subject to lode claims. Originally, placer claims included only deposits of mineral-bearing sand and gravel containing free gold or other fragmented minerals. Placer deposits have accumulated through weathering and then transportation and concentration of the minerals in stream sediments. Basically the difference between a lode claim and a placer claim is that lode claims are staked on hard-rock deposits and placer claims are staked on unconsolidated deposits (found in a river or stream).
All mining claims are initially unpatented claims, which give the right only for those activities necessary for exploration and mining, and last only as long as the claim is worked every year.
If a proven economic mineral deposit is developed on an unpatented claim, provisions of federal mining laws permit owners of unpatented mining claims to obtain title to the claims. The patented claim is then treated like any other private land and is subject to all federal and state property taxes, rules and regulation. However, Congress has imposed a moratorium, and the federal government has not accepted any new applications for mining claim patents since October 1, 1994.
Location notices must contain the following basic information (43 CFR Part 3832, Subpart A, and Part 3833, Subpart A):
• The date of location on the ground
• The names and addresses of the locator(s)
• The name of the claim or site
• The type of claim or site
• The acreage claimed
• A legal description of the parcel on the ground
Typical claim size on federal land is 20 acres. However each 10 acres must be shown to be mineral-in-character. The claim must be placer, or lode and must have a clearly marked discovery point.
The procedure for staking a claim includes: setting a wood post of at least 3 1/2 inches in diameter at least 3′ high above ground and at least 1″ below ground, a metal post 2″ in diameter, 3′ high and 1″ below ground, or a rock monument at least three feet high. After you’ve placed your number one monument at the northeast corner, you then work around in a clockwise direction and post the rest of your monuments.
Filing fees and the first years rental on your claim will vary depending upon what type claim you staked, and on whether it is state or federal land, and how many claims you have staked. Average filing fees for claims at the recorders office are $15 each, and the rental which is due within 45 days of filing the claim, will be $25 and up.
Claims and sites must be recorded with both the county and the proper BLM STATE OFFICE. In Alaska, claims may also be recorded with the BLM office in Fairbanks.
State law usually requires filing and recording the original location notice or certificate in the county recorder’s or the county clerk’s office. In the county where the claim is located. The time frame is usually 30, 60, or 90 days. CHECK LOCAL RULES, I cannot stress enough to do your own research for the area in which the claim is located.
THE APPROPRIATE BLM STATE OFFICE IS THE ONLY OFFICIAL FILING OFFICE FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. The only exception is the BLM Northern Field Office in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is also a filing office.
Dennis M. O'Connor
Wow Dennis this is a mouth full I think you need to have your head screwed on properly if you want to get into claims..... One mistake, you could lose a fortune.