U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Mining Claims and Sites FAQ|
Q. What rules apply to recreational gold panning?
Answer: Gold panning for recreation may occur on BLM land without special permits except where prohibited and special rules apply in some areas including the Arkansas River area. Contact the surface management agencies field office with jurisdiction over the area where you intend to recreational gold pan, for further guidance.
Q. I want to go rockhounding on public land, do I need a mining claim to legally collect?
Regulations and procedures for properly looking for some minerals, as well as fossil hunting are explained in the BLM Colorado Rockhounding & Fossil Collecting downloadable brochure.
Q. Can I file a mining claim to get my own land in the mountains?
A mining claim on public lands is a "possessory mineral interest." This means that a mining claimant has a limited right to the location for mining or milling purposes only. No deed accompanies this right. It does not grant exclusive right to "vacation" or "fish" on the land, to the claim holder. If the surface use is not otherwise encumbered, anyone may enter upon a claim on public lands for recreational purposes. Mining claims are not a homesteading program, permission for occupancy falls under 43 CFR 3715 regulations.
Q. If I file a mining claim can I eventually obtain title to the land?
Effective October 1, 1994, Congress imposed a moratorium on spending appropriated funds for the acceptance or processing of mineral patent applications that had not yet received First Half Final Certificate (FHFC) or were not in Washington, D.C. for Secretarial review of FHFC on or before September 30, 1994. Until the moratorium is lifted, the BLM will not accept any new applications.
Q. How do I locate a mining claim?
Answer: The steps to locate a mining claim/site are summarized on our website, and within the brochure Mining Claims and Sites on Federal Land. The Federal regulations for locating a mining claim/site fall under 43 CFR 3830.
Q. What are the governing laws for mining?
Answer: This includes the General Mining Law of 1872, as amended; those portions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (FLPMA) that affect the General Mining Law; and the Surface Resources Act of 1955.
Q. How can I find out where unpatented mining claims are currently located?
Answer: Current information on unpatented mining claims may be found by searching our database LR2000.
Q. How can I get information on mining claims that date back to the early 1800 or 1900's?
Answer: Historic mining claim information may be found online at General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov) or by contacting the Public Room at 303-239-3600.
In order to do an effective search you will need to have some basic information on the mining claim, such as legal description, Mineral Survey number, or the original patent serial number. Records of official survey's as well as original patents are available. Generally, lode and placer claims were surveyed prior to granting the patent, but there are also claims in Colorado that were surveyed but a patent was never issued.
Q. What are the regulations for locatable mineral mining and prospecting operations ?
Answer: In addition to state requirements, the federal regulations identify 3-tiers of use on a mining claim based on surface disturbance and commercial use (sales).
Casual use prospecting includes those activities which cause very little or no disturbance. For example: collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It also generally includes use of metal detectors, gold spears and other battery-operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals, and hand and battery-operated dry washers. Operators may use motorized vehicles for casual use activities only if the use is consistent with the regulations governing such use (part 43 CFR 8340), including following off-road vehicle use designations and temporary closures ordered by BLM. Casual use operations do not require notification of the BLM; except where specific land use or recreation area plans call for a recreational mining permit. You must reclaim any casual-use disturbance that you create.
A person must file a Notice of Intent to Conduct Prospecting Operations (NOI) with the appropriate BLM field office, as defined in 43 CFR 3809 regulations. Notice level prospecting means any prospecting operation that is motorized, mechanized, uses explosives, or is reasonably expected to result in greater land disturbance other than is caused by the ordinary, lawful use of the land by persons not prospecting. The operator will be required to provide a financial guarantee warranty for reclamation costs of the prospecting operations which is filed and held by Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (CDRMS) in the form of a cash bond, or a corporate or insurance instrument.
PLAN OF OPERATION LEVEL
An approved Plan of Operations is required for exploration activities disturbing in excess of 5 acres, bulk sampling of 1,000 tons or more, and all proposed mining or milling operations (regardless of the acreage disturbed). A plan is required for any operation causing surface disturbance greater than Casual Use in special status areas as defined in 43 CFR 3809.11. Financial warranty must be supplied for all plan level operations.
Additional information about the claimants responsibilities prior to hard rock mining on Public Land is available on the BLM Nevada website titled Locatable Minerals-Hard Rock Mining.
Q. What about suction dredging on public land?
Answer: A person must contact the BLM field office with jurisdiction over the land where the operation will take place BEFORE beginning such use to determine what level of regulations your operation falls under. If your operations involve the use of a suction dredge with a nozzle diameter greater than 4”, the State of Colorado requires authorization for its use.
The BLM Grand Junction Field Office and the Royal Gorge Field Office have designated rules and localities on suction dredging and recreational placer operations within their field office boundaries. A Notice of Intent form for any work in these areas only is provided on each field office website.
Q. Where can I find more information?
Answer: Contact the BLM Colorado State Office Public Room at 303-239-3600 or email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collection of Petrified Wood on Public Lands ( 43 CFR 3622 )
Mineral Materials Disposal on Public Land ( 43 CFR 3600 )