GhostTownsUSA.com provides a helpful list of frequently asked questions about gold claims.
What Is A Mining Claim?
A mining claim is a portion of federal public mineral lands that an individual holds for the purpose of extracting 'valuable locatable minerals'. Claims may be staked, bought and sold, leased, willed, or inherited like any other property.
Glossary of Terms
Reading these common terms will help you understand a bit better about mining and claims. Click here for the Glossary of Terms
What Are 'Valuable Locatable Minerals'?
Metallic and certain nonmetallic minerals that occur in such quantity and quality that they can be produced at a profit when mined are considered valuable minerals. Common valuable metallic minerals are gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and uranium. Locatable nonmetallic minerals or rocks include quartz, limestone, dolomite, and talc.
What Minerals Are Not Locatable?
Deposits of oil, gas, coal, phosphate, sodium, potassium, and oil shale on federal land cannot be staked. These deposits must be leased from the Department of the Interior. These minerals are known as the Leasing Act minerals. In addition, common variety minerals such as sand, gravel, stone, pumice, pumicite, cinders, and clay also may not be staked.
If I Discover 'Valuable Locatable Minerals', How Do I Stake A Claim?
Basic federal and state law for staking a claim requires that you: (1) make a discovery; (2) post a location notice; (3) place stakes at corners and mark boundaries; and (4) record the location notice. To insure that your claim is properly staked, you should obtain a packet of materials for staking claims from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
What Must I Do After Staking A Claim?
You must record a copy of the location notice with the county auditor of the county in which the claim is located within 90 days after it is located. You must also file a copy accompanied by a map showing the approximate location of the claim within a quarter section, plus the township, range, meridian, and state, with the BLM within 90 days.
Where May I Stake A Claim?
You may stake a claim only if you discover valuable locatable minerals on 'open public land'. You should obtain a packet of information that gives details about all federal mining law requirements from BLM, the agency charged with maintaining all claim records and collecting maintenance/rental fees.
What Is 'Open Public Land'?
'Open public land' is land belonging to the federal government that has not been withdrawn from mineral entry or appropriated for special uses. National forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other public lands managed by the BLM are the largest areas of open public land in Washington. However, certain parts of the national forests have been withdrawn from mineral entry. Check with the local USFS office or the BLM to determine which lands are withdrawn.
Who Can Stake A Mining Claim?
A mining claim may be staked by citizens of the United States or by any persons who have declared their intention of becoming a citizen. They may be residents or nonresidents of the state or minors, if of 'discretion and understanding'.
How Many Claims May I Stake?
There is no limit to the number of mining claims that a qualified person may stake. However, an honest locator will stake no more claims than are necessary to protect his discovery.
How Do I Hold A Mining Claim?
Paying a yearly maintenance or rental fee of $100 per claim holds unpatented mining claims, unless you have 10 or fewer claims and have applied for and received a Small Mining Operation Exception. The maintenance fee is due on or before August 31 of each year. If you have received a Small Mining Operation Exemption, then you are required to perform at least $100 worth of labor or improvements annually on each claim. The labor must be performed by September 1 of each year and recorded not later than September 30 at the courthouse of the county in which the claim is located. Proof of labor must also be filed with the BLM on or before December 30 of each year. The labor constitutes assessment work and must result in some physical change or improvement to the ground in or near the claim and have a direct relation to mining. For a group of contiguous claims all assessment work may be performed on one claim, providing it amounts to $100 for each claim of the group. If you are placer prospecting or placer mining with equipment other than hand-tools, you must submit a State Hydraulic Project Application. You must file a notice of intent or a plan of operations with the USFS or the BLM (depending which agency manages the land the claim is on) for any physical disturbance or development activities.
What Is The Difference Between An Unpatented And A Patented Mining Claim?
An unpatented mining claim (whether lode or placer) on federal lands establishes claim to the locatable minerals (also referred to as stakeable minerals) on the claim and the right of possession solely for mining purposes. If a proven economic mineral deposit is developed, provisions of federal mining laws permit owners of unpatented mining claims to patent (to obtain title to) the claim. The patented claim is then treated like any other private land and is subject to local property taxes. If you purchase an unpatented mining claim that is later declared invalid by the Government, you could be evicted. Beware of individuals who sell unpatented mining claims as sites for weekend cabins and hunting lodges.
What Is The Difference Between A Lode Deposit And A Placer Deposit?
Lode deposits are mineral deposits found in rock that commonly must be blasted and then milled to remove the valuable minerals. These minerals typically occur in a vein, a series of veins, or disseminated through the rock. Veins have a more or less tabular or sheet-like form and most are distinct from the rock that encloses them. A placer deposit consists of sand, gravel, and other detrital or residual material (such as deposits found in streams and rivers) that contains a valuable mineral such as gold. The deposit has accumulated through weathering and then transportation and concentration of the minerals in stream sediments. Lode claims are staked on hardrock deposits, and placer claims are staked on unconsolidated deposits. Lode and placer claims can be laid out or tied to the public land survey (section, township, and range).
Do Mining Laws Of Washington Apply To Federal Lands?
State mining laws supplement federal mining laws, and they apply to locating and holding claims on any federal lands that are open to mineral entry.
May I Build A Summer Home Or Hunting Cabin On My Claim?
Building a structure on your claim simply for recreation or purposes other than mining is illegal. To build on a claim, you must first obtain a permit from the federal agency managing the surface, for example, the USFS or BLM.
Do I Own Surface And Timber Rights To The Land Covered By The Unpatented Claim?
Your rights are only to the locatable minerals and whatever surface materials and timber you require for your mining operation. Public Law 167 (Multiple Use on Mining Claims) allows the government to manage or dispose of forage crops and common stone on unpatented mining claims. Grazing and logging by others is allowed as long as they do not interfere with your mining operations.
Are Maps Available That Show The Location Of Mining Claims?
Many reports describing specific areas or mines contain maps that show locations of mining claims, especially patented claims. Maps maintained by the BLM and the offices of county assessors show locations of patented mining claims. Most patented claims are also shown on maps of the national forests published by the USFS. However, only approximate locations and no claim names are shown on these maps. Patented claims are also shown on county maps such as those published by Metsker and by Kroll and sold by sporting goods and other outlets. Unpatented mining claims are not shown on commonly available maps. However, to have a valid claim, you must file a map showing the approximate location of the claim with BLM.
How Can I Tell If A Claim Has Been Staked?
The presence's of a location notice, claim corners, and marked boundaries, as well as recent mining activity, suggest that a valid mining claim exist. If you are unable to identify the name of the claim or its owner in the field, check with the local county auditor to see if the claim has been recorded and if annual assessment work is being done. If the claim was never recorded or the assessment work is not being done, the claim could be invalid and the area open to staking. If you provide the section, township, and range of the land where the claim is located, the BLM can provide you with the following information. The name of the claim(s), the descriptive location of the claim(s) within the section, the name of the individual(s) who staked the claim, and a copy of the map filed with the BLM.
Can I Stake A Claim On State-Owned Land?
Claims may not be staked on state-owned land. State law also does not permit prospecting on state land without a prospecting permit. However, you can apply for a mineral prospecting lease and a mining contract on state lands. For placer prospecting and placer mining on state land, you must obtain a placer mining lease. Permit applications are available from the Department of Natural Resources.
May I Stake A Claim On Privately Owned Land?
Claims may not be staked on private land. The current owner of the land may not own the minerals. Mineral rights are sometimes retained by landowners when they sell their property. The federal government can retain the mineral rights when they sell land, and that land then may be open to stake. A title search is commonly necessary in order to determine who owns the minerals on a piece of property. Permission to prospect on private land must be obtained from the owner of the surface rights. If minerals are discovered, you will need to negotiate with the owner(s) of the surface and mineral rights before you can mine.
May I Stake A Claim On An Indian Reservation?
Claims may not be staked on reservations, but prospecting and mining may be allowed on most reservations by obtaining a permit from superintendent of the reservation. These permits allow you to prospect and mine only in the area for which the permit is issued.
May I Stake A Claim In A Wilderness Area?
Wilderness areas were closed to claim staking on December 31, 1983. If a mining claim was determined valid at that time, prospecting and mining activity were allowed to continue on that claim, but they must be compatible with wilderness values. Mining in wilderness areas is difficult.
May I Stake A Claim In A National Park?
No claims may be staked in United States National Parks.