The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended, opened the public lands of the United States to mineral acquisition by the location and maintenance of mining claims. Mineral deposits subject to acquisition in this manner are generally referred to as “locatable minerals.” Locatable minerals include both metallic minerals (gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, etc.), nonmetallic minerals (fluorspar, mica, certain limestones and gypsum, tantalum, heavy minerals in placer form, and gemstones) and certain uncommon variety minerals. It is very difficult to prepare a complete list of locatable minerals because the history of the law has resulted in a definition of minerals that includes economics.
The federal law governing locatable minerals is the General Mining Law of 1872 (May 10, 1872), which declared all valuable mineral deposits in land belonging to the United States to be free and open to citizens of the United States to explore for, discover, and purchase certain valuable mineral deposits on public domain minerals.
In Colorado, the official office to file mining claim recordation documents under state law is the County Recorder's Office. Now, owner(s) of unpatented mining claims and sites are required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 (Sec. 314) to ALSO file with the BLM Colorado State Office a COPY of the "official record of the instrument filed or recorded" under state law.
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. FLPMA’s 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 to remove any cloud of title on abandoned claims.
Mining Claims and Sites
If you are considering filing a mining claim, or are currently a mining claimant, important announcements and additional information regarding the Mining Law is available on our website.
Recreational Mineral Collection
The limits and procedures for properly prospecting and collecting for some minerals, as well as fossil hunting, may be obtained by contacting the BLM Field Office personnel in the area where you intend to collect.
If you intend to sell the specimens then your level of activity is no longer considered casual use, you must contact the BLM Field Office personnel for additional necessary requirements, prior to collecting such as a Special Use Permit. A Special Use Permit may be obtained for a small quantity of material.
Casual use is defined by activities that cause very little or no disturbance to the land. Mineral specimen collection commonly called "rockhounding" is defined by collecting up to a 5 gallon bucket for personal use in one day using hand tools. Gold panning and non-motorized sluicing are also examples of casual use activity. Suction dredging (less than 8 horsepower and 4" suction nozzle or less) are considered recreational activites that are allowed on most BLM lands.