Locating a Mining Claim/Site

Drawing of a mining claim site.

WHO MAY LOCATE A MINING CLAIM?

Any citizen of the United States, a minor who has reached the age of discretion, a corporation, and non-citizens (aliens) who have declared their intention to become a citizen. (43 CFR 3832.1)

WHERE CAN I LOCATE A MINING CLAIM?

A mining claim can be located on federal lands (BLM and Forest Service) that are open to mineral location (entry).  If you have a specific location site in mind, you may verify that the lands are open to mineral entry.  This can be accomplished by checking with the BLM State Office Information Access Center (Public Room), who will assist you in determining if the lands are open to mineral entry by checking master title plats, records, files and other pertinent information.

WHAT TYPES OF CLAIMS/SITES ARE THERE?

Lode - A classic vein, ledge, or other rock in place between definite walls.  A lode claim is located by metes and bounds.  The maximum length is 1,500 feet by 600 feet. (43 CFR 3841)

Placer - All deposits, other than lodes.  These include placer deposits of sand and gravel containing free gold and other minerals.  Placer claims are located by legal subdivision.  An individual may locate up to 20 acres with a maximum of 160 contiguous acres with 8 or more people (an association).   A corporation is consider a single locator. (43 CFR 3842)

Tunnel Site - A tunnel site is where a tunnel is run to develop a vein or lode.  It may also be used for the discovery of unknown veins or lodes.  To stake a tunnel site, two stakes are placed up to 3,000 feet apart on the line of the proposed tunnel.  Recordation is the same as a lode claim.  A Tunnel Site can be regarded more as a right-a-way, than a mining claim.   (43 CFR 3843)

Mill Site - Public lands which are non-mineral in character.  Mill Sites may be located in connection with a placer or lode claim for mining and milling purposes or as an independent/custom mill site that is independent of a mining claim.  Mill Sites are located by metes and bounds or legal subdivision and are up to 5 acres in size. (43 CFR 3844)

WHAT IS A LOCATION NOTICE AND WHERE MAY I GET THE FORM?

A location notice is a form that must be filed with the BLM, California State Office and your local County Recording Office.  The following information must be included on the form; date of location of the claim/site, description of discovery monument,  name of claim/site, legal description (metes and bounds or legal subdivision), and the names and addresses of all locators. 

There are separate notices for placers, lodes, and mill sites.  You can obtain location notice forms on-line or from the BLM Public Room (916-978-4400) and stationary stores.  (43 CFR 3833.1-2)

HOW DO I RECORD A MINING CLAIM?

You must file your mining claim/site location notice with the BLM, California State Office, within 90 days from the date of location of the claim or site and you must also file with the County Recording Office.  

All new locations must be accompanied by the required fees of a $20 processing fee, $34 location fee, and a $140 for every 20 acres or portion thereof for maintenance fees for the first year of location.  Claims will expire September 1st, if you do not do your annual filings. 

*NEW MINING CLAIMS LOCATION FEE*

Effective October 1, 2013, the fees for filing a new mining claim location notice increased to $20 per claim or site.  New mining claim location notice must include the new mining claim processing fee of $20 per claim or site. 

The full language of this new ruling was published in the Federal Register on August 16, 2013, Vol. 78, No. 159.  If you have any questions, please contact our Information Access Center in Sacramento at (916) 978-4400.

Acreage of "new location" claim
Fee to pay BLM for "new claim"
1 through 20 Acres
$194
21 through 40 Acres
$334
41 through 60 Acres
$474
61 through 80 Acres
$614
81 through 100 Acres
$754
101 through 120 Acres
$894
121 through 140 Acres
$1,034
141 through 160 Acres
$1,174

On or before September 1 of each year, you must file a maintenance fee payment of $140 for every 20 acres or portion thereof, or a wavier which states you will do the labor for the next year.  There are no fees to file the waiver.  You must file either a Notice of Intent to Hold or an Affidavit of Assessment Work each year with the County on or before September 30 AND with the BLM on or before December 30.

Call the appropriate County for the fees.  The BLM fee is $10 per claim.

MAY I CHANGE A LOCATION NOTICE AFTER I HAVE FILED WITH THE BLM?

You may file an amended location notice in order to change the name of the claim/site, clarify the legal description, or provide information that was incomplete.   Also, you must file these amendments first with the county that the claim is in.  After you receive the county stamp on the amended location notice, then file your amendment with the Bureau of Land Management State Office at 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825.  You may not add or delete locators or change the location date of the claim/site.  There is a $10 filing fee for filing an amended location notice. (43 CFR 3833.0-5[p])

WHAT MUST I DO TO MAINTAIN A CLAIM?

Once a claim/site is serialized, an annual filing must be made on or before September 1, of each year to maintain the claim/site.  If you have more than 10 claims, you must pay maintenance fees.  If you have 10 or fewer claims/sites, you may choose to file either the maintenance fee payment or file the Maintenance Fee Waiver certification (a.k.a. small miners waiver).  If you choose to file a small miners waiver, then you must also perform $100 worth of labor or improvements on all placers or lode claims during the assessment year (September 1, noon through September 1, noon).  An Assessment Work Notice (Proof of Labor) form must be filed on or before December 30, along with the $10 filing fee per claim.   For mill/tunnel sites, a Notice of Intent to Hold must be filed on or before December 30, along with the $10 filing fee per site.   To learn more about mining claims/sites filing instructions, please visit our web page mining facts.  (43 CFR 3833.1-5 and 43 CFR 3833.1-6)

WHAT IS A SMALL MINERS WAIVER?

A small miners waiver is short for maintenance fee payment waiver certification.  A small miners waiver may be filed by those claimants holding 10 or fewer claims/sites, instead of paying the annual maintenance fees by September 1.  If you choose to file a small miners wavier you must also perform assessment work and file an assessment work notice by December 30, of each year. (43 CFR 3833.1-6)

WHAT QUALIFIES AS ASSESSMENT WORK?

Some of the activities that qualify for assessment work are construction and maintenance of access roads, development drilling and sampling, and buildings that benefit the claim.   For more information about what qualifies as assessment work please contact your local BLM office.

HOW DO I TRANSFER A MINING CLAIM?

A mining claim is transfered by recording a Quit Claim Deed with the County Recorder where the mining claim is located, and then by filing the Quit Claim Deed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) State Office.  The cost to file the Quit Claim Deed with the BLM is $10.00 per claimant, per claim.  (Please call the County Recorder's Office for their fees).  Quit Claim Deeds are usually found at office supply stores.

MAY I SUCTION DREDGE MY MINING CLAIM?

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not prohibit suction dredging as long as state laws are complied with.  

On July 26, 2011, California Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 120 which extends the term of the suction dredging moratorium until June 30, 2016.   The use of any motorized vacuum or suction dredge equipment as part of a mining operation in any river, stream, or lake is currently prohibited in California. 

For more information on dredging, visit the State of California's Suction Dredge Permitting Program website.  http://www.dfg.ca.gov/suctiondredge/.

For more information on mining activity, contact the geologist in the BLM Field Office that has jurisdiction over the land you wish to mine.

LAWS AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING MINING CLAIMS/SITES

Mining Law of 1872

Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) - See Section 314

Code of Federal Regulations, 43 CFR 3800

Interior Board of Land Appeals Decisions

Dredging-Suction Dredge Permitting Program (State of California website)

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Now available in the Information Access Center is our mining book titled, "Location and Validity of Mining Claims and Sites in California, Latest Edition - Updated 2006."  This book explains how to locate and patent mining claims in California. It shows locations, monuments, and claim maps.  This book is written by the Bureau of Land Management, and it cost $15.  To order, call (916) 978-4400.