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Mining Claim Information

MINING LAW OF 1872--The major federal law governing locatable minerals is the Mining Law of 1872 (May 10, 1872), which declared all valuable mineral deposits in lands belonging to the United States to be free and open to exploration and purchase. This law provides citizens of the United States the opportunity to explore for, discover, and purchase certain valuable mineral deposits on public domain minerals. 

FEDERAL LAND POLICY AND MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1976 (FLPMA)--This Act did not amend the 1872 law, but did affect the recordation and maintenance of claims. Persons holding existing claims were required to record their claims with BLM by October 1979, and all new claims were required to be recorded with BLM. Its purpose was to provide BLM with information on the locations and number of unpatented mining claims, mill sites, and tunnel sites; to determine the names and addresses of current owners, and remove the cloud of title on abandoned claims.

WHAT IS A MINING CLAIM?--A mining claim is a parcel of land for which the claimant has asserted a right of possession and the right to develop and extract a discovered, valuable, mineral deposit. This right does not include exclusive surface rights (see Public Law 84-167).

There are three basic types of minerals on federally-administered lands: locatable, leasable, and salable. Mining claims are staked on locatable minerals on public domain lands.

Locatable minerals include both metallic minerals (gold, silver, lead, etc.) and nonmetallic minerals (fluorspar, asbestos, mica, etc.). It is nearly impossible to list all locatable minerals because of the complex legal requirements for discovery.

TYPES OF CLAIMS/ENTRIES--There are two types of mining claims - lode and placer.

Lode Claims - Deposits subject to lode claims include classic veins or lodes having well-defined boundaries. They also include other rock in- place bearing valuable minerals and may be broad zones of mineralized rock. Examples include quartz or other veins bearing gold or other metallic minerals and large volume, but low-grade disseminated gold deposits. Descriptions are by metes and bounds surveys beginning at the discovery point on the claim and including a reference to natural objects or permanent monuments. Federal statute limits their size to a maximum of 1500 feet in length, and a maximum width of 600 feet (300 feet on either side of the vein).

Placer Claims - Placer claims are defined as "...including all forms of deposit, excepting veins of quartz, or other rock in-place." In other words every deposit, not located with a lode claim, should be appropriated by a placer location. Placer claims, where practicable, are located by legal subdivision (aliquot part and complete lots). The maximum size is 20 acres per locator, and the maximum for an association placer is 160 acres for 8 or more locators. The maximum size in Alaska is 40 acres. The maximum size for a corporation is 20 acres per claim. Corporations may not locate association placers unless they are in association with other locators or corporations as co-locators.

There are two other types of mineral entries - mill sites and tunnel sites:

Mill Sites - A mill site must be located on "nonmineral lands" and must be noncontiguous to the lode or placer with which it is associated. Its purpose is to support a lode or placer mining operation. A mill site must include the erection of a mill or reduction works and/or may include other uses in support of a mining operation. Descriptions are by metes and bounds if on unsurveyed land and by legal subdivision if on surveyed lands. The maximum size is 5 acres.

Tunnel Sites - A tunnel site is a subsurface right-of-way under Federal land open to mineral entry. It is used for access to lode mining claims or to explore for blind or undiscovered veins, lodes, or ledges not currently claimed or known to exist on the surface. A tunnel site can be up to 3,000 feet in length.


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STATE REQUIREMENTS--Provisions of the Mining Law allow for the development of local rules that are consistent with federal law. Therefore, individual states can have their own manner of locating and recording mining claims, tunnels sites, and mill sites. Always check with the appropriate state for state specific laws and regulations.

STAKING A CLAIM--Federal law specifies that claim boundaries must be distinctly and clearly marked to be readily identifiable. Most states have statutes and regulations concerning the actual staking and recording of mining claims so claimants should refer to the appropriate state agency for additional requirements before locating a claim.

Prior to locating a claim, a prospector should check BLM records for prior recorded claims. Ultimately, the prospector must check for prior existing claim markings on the ground.

Departmental decisions require a discovery on each claim, based on actual physical exposure of the valuable mineral within the claim boundaries. (Also, each 10 acres on a placer claim, after a discovery, must be mineral in character). 

WHO CAN STAKE A CLAIM?--United States citizens who have reached the age of discretion, under the law of the state of residence; or legal immigrants who have declared their intention to become a citizen; or a corporation organized under the laws of any state may locate a mining claim. The government considers a corporation the same as a U.S. citizen. An agent may locate a mining claim on behalf of a claimant. A claimant may hold any number of claims or sites.

WHERE CAN A CLAIM BE LOCATED?--There are federally-administered lands in 19 states where mining claims can be located.

Only public domain minerals are locatable minerals (those minerals that have never left federal ownership). Reconveyed minerals are considered public domain minerals under the mining laws. Mining claims cannot be staked on acquired minerals; a prospecting permit (43 CFR 3500) is required to prospect for acquired minerals. Mining claims can be located on open public lands administered by another federal agency (most commonly on Forest Service lands).

Claims and sites can be located on lands that have not been previously claimed or closed to mineral entry under some special act, regulation, or public land order. A withdrawal does not automatically close lands to mineral entry. Withdrawn areas that are closed from mineral entry and location include: National Parks, National Monuments, Indian reservations, most reclamation projects, military reservations, scientific testing areas, and most wildlife protection areas (such as Federal Wildlife Refuges).

Mining claims can be located on those minerals reserved under the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 (SRHA). The surface is fee, but the minerals are public domain. There are specific regulations governing the claiming of SRHA minerals - refer to the SHRA section of this guide.

RECORDING A MINING CLAIM--Claims and sites must be recorded with both the state and the proper BLM state office (state laws usually require filing the original location notice or certificate in the proper county office).  Note: Faxed documents will not be accepted.

The Certificate of Location (COL) or notice must be filed with BLM within 90 calendar days after the date of location. Check with the proper county for their filing requirements.

A location map is required by BLM to accurately determine location and land status of the claim.

BLM requires a copy of the official record of the notice or COL of each claim that was or will be filed under state law. (BLM does not require the original document, nor does the document have to be notarized.)

BLM does not require the claim information to be on any specific form, nor does BLM produce/distribute a form for such purpose. Local printing companies or stationery stores are typical sources of forms. The form submitted to BLM should include the date of location, the name and address of the owner(s), the name of the claim/site, the type of claim/site, the acreage claimed, and a description of the parcel on the ground (township, range, section, quarter section, and/or a metes and bounds description).

Recordation fees for new claims:
  • Location Fee has increased from $34 to $37.  All Mining Claims located on or after September 1, 2014, will cost a total of $212.
  • $20 Processing Fee (filing fee)
  • $37 Location Fee
  • $155 Maintenance Fee (Placer claims over 20 acres must pay an additional $155
    • For each 20 acres or portion thereof.) 
    Total due per claim $212 (plus additional if it is a placer claim over 20 acres)

All monies are due at the time of filing. A claim will not be accepted unless the payment of the maintenance and locations fees is submitted.  

The initial $155 maintenance fee is due for the assessment year in which the claim is located (not recorded). This fee is not prorated.  (Placer claims over 20 acres must pay an additional $155 for each 20 acres or portion thereof.)

Each claim is assigned a BLM serial number. The claimant will receive a recordation receipt itemizing the claim and assigned serial number. 

MAINTAINING A MINING CLAIM--Maintenance requirements are based on the assessment year which begins September 1, and ends the following September 1.

Failure to meet any of the annual requirements will result in the claim(s) or site(s) being deemed to be forfeited.

MAINTENANCE FEES--An annual $155 maintenance fee per claim is required to be filed or postmarked (if mailed) on or before September 1 of the year preceding an assessment year. (For example, for the 2013 assessment year which began September 1, 2012, the maintenance fees were due by September 1, 2012.)  (Placer claims over 20 acres must pay an additional $155 for each 20 acres or portion thereof.)

Annual maintenance fees may now be paid on-line at this website www.blm.gov/payportal/home.html.

A maintenance fee is required when a new claim is recorded (this is part of the $212 recording fee). If a claimant qualifies, he/she may file for a fee payment waiver form and perform assessment work in subsequent years.

Forms

MAINTENANCE FEE PAYMENT WAIVER CERTIFICATION (aka SMALL MINERS EXEMPTION)--If a claimant owns 10 or fewer active claims/sites on federal lands in the United States, he may qualify for a maintenance fee payment waiver. Waivers must be filed or postmarked (if mailed) on or before September 1 for the subsequent assessment year. There is no fee to file a waiver. A waiver must be filed prior to each year a waiver of the fees is desired.

If a claimant owns claims in more than one state, he/she must file a waiver form in each appropriate state office.

Filing a waiver form, the claimant is stating that assessment work has been or will be done, and that the proper affidavits of labor will be timely filed.

ANNUAL ASSESSMENT WORK--Claimants who perform assessment work must spend a minimum of $100 in labor or improvements on each claim, and record evidence of such with the BLM by December 30 of the calendar year in which the assessment year ended. FLPMA required the same document be filed with BLM which has been or will be recorded with the appropriate county office. The charge for recording an affidavit of annual labor or representation with BLM is $10 per claim.

The assessment work must be performed within the period defined as the assessment year (i.e., the assessment year begins on September 1 and ends on September 1 of each year).

Assessment work is not a requirement for owners of mill or tunnel sites; however, they must file a notice of intent (NOI) to hold the site. BLM requires a $10 service charge per site for filing a Notice of Intent to hold.

Assessment work includes, but is not limited to, drilling, excavations, driving shafts and tunnels, sampling (geochemical or bulk), road construction on or for the benefit of the mining claim; and geological, geochemical, and geophysical surveys.

PATENTING A MINING CLAIM
Note: The Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 1994 included a moratorium on the acceptance of new mineral patent applications. The moratorium was in effect October 1, 1994, through September 30, 1995. It has been extended by subsequent Interior Appropriations Acts. Therefore, all mineral patent applications received after October 1, 1994, until the moratorium expires, are to be returned to the applicant without further action.

TRANSFER OF INTEREST (NOTARIZED): If there is a change of ownership, the transfer document must include the name and address of the transferor (grantor) and transferee (grantee). The transfer document must also include the claim names and BLM serial numbers and should be filed with BLM and the appropriate County Recorder. The BLM processing fee is $10 per claim/site per grantee(person receiving the interest in the claim/site). A notarized copy of the transfer is a state requirement. 

AMENDMENTS--An amendment (1) may not take in different or additional un-appropriated ground; (2) may correct or clarify defects or omissions in the original notice or Certificate of Location; (3) may change the legal land description; (4) may change the claim name; and (5) may change the position of discovery or boundary monuments. Amendments cannot be used to transfer ownership of a mining claim. There is a charge of $10 per claim to record an amended location notice.

RELOCATIONS--A relocation is treated as a new original location which essentially covers the same land as a prior mining claim/site. As such, a relocation will be issued a new serial number and date stamp. Filing fees of $212 per claim is required.

A relocation does not relate back to the date of the prior location and is adverse to the prior location.

A relocation may not be established by the use of an "amended location notice," but requires a new, original notice or certificate as prescribed by state law.

STOCK RAISING HOMESTEAD ACT (SRHA)--There are specific procedures for locatable mineral exploration and development on split estate lands, where the surface was patented under the Homestead Act entries, the SRHA of 1916, and the mineral estate remains reserved to the federal government.

Public Law 103-23, an amendment to the SRHA, requires anyone wishing to explore lands subject to the SRHA for the purpose of staking a mining claim to first file a Notice of Intent to Locate a Mining Claim (NOITL) with the appropriate BLM state office. BLM carries a form for filing a NOITL on SRHA lands, however, a specific form is not required. A nonrefundable filing fee of $30 must accompany the NOITL.

Claimants who own the surface estate and wish to explore for and locate a mining claim are not required to follow the SRHA NOITL procedures. However, if claimants locate a claim on their land, they are required to provide proof of ownership (i.e., tax records).

The claimant must also serve a copy of the NOITL to the surface owner by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. A separate NOITL must be served to each surface owner affected. The claimant must wait 30 days from the date of service before entering the lands to locate any mining claim.

After BLM has determined that the NOITL is acceptable to be posted, the land is segregated for 90 days. No person, including the surface owner, may (1) file an NOITL, or (2) explore for and locate minerals, or (3) file an application to acquire mineral interest on any portion of the subject land.

NOITLs are assigned a serial number and noted on the Master Title Plat.

A person (or affiliates of such person) may not file NOITLs for more than 1,280 acres of land nationwide owned by a single surface owner, nor file NOITLs for more than 6,400 acres of land in any one state.

The location, recording, and maintenance of mining claims on SRHA lands are the same as for other open public domain lands.

SURFACE MANAGEMENT (43 CFR 3809)
BLM regulates surface management on mining activity conducted on lands administered by BLM. Other federal agencies such as U.S. Forest Service have different regulations regarding surface management; if a claim is located within another agency's administrative jurisdiction, the claimant needs to check with that agency for proper procedures.

All mining activities require reasonable reclamation. The lowest level of mining activity, "casual use," is designed for the miner or weekend prospector who creates only negligible surface disturbance (for example, activities that do not involve the use of earth-moving equipment or explosives may be considered casual use). Dredging at any level of use may require a permit from the appropriate state agency administering water quality.

The second level of activity, where surface disturbance is 5 acres or less per year, requires a notice advising BLM of the anticipated work 15 days prior to commencement. This notice needs to be filed with the appropriate field office. No approval is needed although bonding is required. State agencies need to be notified to assure that their requirements are met.

For operations involving more than 5 acres, a detailed plan of operation must be filed with the appropriate BLM field office. Bonding is required to ensure proper reclamation.

DETERMINATION OF SURFACE RIGHTS UNDER PUBLIC LAW 84-167 (1955)
Prior to 1955, claimants had certain surface rights associated with their mining claim. Public Law 84-167 required BLM to publish each township in each state where the United States wished to acquire complete surface management rights. Most townships were published between 1955 and 1968. The Master Title Plat for a particular township (and the Historical Index) will show if the township was published, give the date of publication, and list the claims (by claim name) that responded or were adjudicated surface rights under this Act. To maintain these surface rights under this determination, the chain of title cannot be broken. There are very few of these claims in Arizona.

USE AND OCCUPANCY--Use and occupancy inquiries should be directed to the appropriate field office.

Staking or operating a mining claim does not give the claimant exclusive rights to the surface resources (unless a right was determined under Public Law 84-167), the right to establish residency, or block access to other users.

Regulations managing the use and occupancy of the public lands for development of locatable mineral deposits by limiting such use or occupancy to that which is reasonably incident is found in 43 CFR 3715. These regulations apply to public lands administered by BLM. They do not apply to state or private lands where minerals have been reserved, nor do they apply to federal lands administered by other agencies (such as the Forest Service).

BLM will prevent abuse of public lands, while recognizing valid rights and uses under the mining laws. BLM will take appropriate action to eliminate invalid uses, including unauthorized residential occupancy. Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) has found that a claim may be declared void by BLM when it has been located and held for purposes other than the mining of minerals.

TRESPASS--Issuance of a notice of trespass may occur if an unpatented claim/site is:

(1) used for a home site, place of business, or for other purposes not reasonably related to mining or milling activities;
(2) used for the mining and sale of leasable minerals or mineral materials, such as sand, gravel and certain types of building stone; or
(3) located on lands that for any reason have been withdrawn from location after the effective date of the withdrawal.

Trespass actions are taken by the field office.

ABANDONED MINES ON BLM-ADMINISTERED LANDS 
Due to growing concerns about the number of abandoned mine safety hazard-related accidents, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is increasing its efforts to mitigate abandoned mine hazards on public lands it administers.  Mining claimants can be liable for hazardous abandoned mine features located within their claims.  For further information please refer to “Questions and Answers About Abandoned Mine Hazards on Mining Claims” and the BLM Abandoned Mine Lands website.

RESEARCH TOOLS

The LR 2000 web site enables you to search a specific area for active and inactive unpatented mining claims. It will not represent those claims on a map.

Additional help using LR 2000 is available at:

The Arizona Master Title Plats web site reflects federal land ownership and public land records. This information tells you what lands are "open to location."

CHARGES AND FEES

Recordation Fees for New Claims

Processing Fee (filing fee)$  20 
Location Fee$  37

Maintenance Fee -Placer claims over 20 acres must pay additional $155 for each 20 acres or portion thereof.

$155
Total due per claim (plus any additional required for placer claim over 20 acres)$212

 
Segregated Mining Claim
 
Processing Fee
$ 20.00/claim
Transfer Fee
$ 10.00/claim
 
Additional Service Charges
 
Proof of Labor
$10.00/claim
Notice of Intent to Hold
$10.00/claim
Transfer of Interest
$10.00/claim
Amendment
$10.00/claim
Petition for Deferment of Assessment Work
$100.00/claim
Notice of Intent to Locate on Stock Raising Homestead Land
  $30.00

 

AMENDED NOTICE/CERTIFICATE OF LOCATION: If a correction is required on the original location notice, an amended notice should be filed first with the appropriate County Recorder and then, within 90 days from the date recorded with the County Recorder, file a copy with the BLM. The BLM processing fee is $10 per claim/site. There is no charge to file an amended map.

ABANDONMENT/RELINQUISHMENT OF CLAIMS: List claim names and BLM serial numbers. The document must be signed by all owners relinquishing their interests and notorized. There is no BLM processing fee.