Mining in the Royal Gorge Field Office Area
Anyone intending to develop mineral resources on the public lands must prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the land and reclaim disturbed areas. Surface Management of public lands for operations authorized by the mining laws are regulated under 43 CFR 3809.
Casual Use Activities
Casual Use means activities ordinarily resulting in no or negligible disturbance of the public lands or resources. Casual use generally includes the collection of geochemical, rock, soil or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It may also include use of battery-operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals. Casual use does not include use of mechanized earth-moving equipment. See below for requirements specific to suction dredge operations.
Notification to the BLM is not required for casual use activities on public lands.
Notice Level Operations
Notice level operations typically include exploration activities. Exploration means creating surface disturbance greater than casual use and involves efforts to determine the extent, quantity, or quality of mineral values present, i.e. exploring for a mineral deposit. Exploration does not include activities where material is extracted for commercial use or sale.
These operations cannot cause greater than 5-acres of surface disturbance of public lands or involve bulk sampling in which 1,000 tons or more of presume ore is removed for testing.
A notice of your operations must be submitted to Royal Gorge Field Office 15 calendar days before you commence exploration. The notice needs to include the following information at a minimum:
43 CFR 3809.301 (b) – outlines the information your notice must include to be considered complete:
1) Operator Information. The name, mailing address, phone number, taxpayer identification number of the operator(s), and the BLM serial number(s) of any unpatented mining claim(s) where the disturbance would occur. If the operator is a corporation, you must identify one individual as the point of contact;
2) Activity Description, Map, and Schedule of Activities. A description of the proposed activity with a level of detail appropriate to the type, size, and location of the activity. The description must include the following:
- The measures you will take to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation during operations;
- A map showing the location of your project area in sufficient detail for BLM to be able to find it and the location of access routes you intend to use, improve, or construct;
- A description of the type of equipment you intend to use; and
- A schedule of activities, including the date when you expect operations to begin and end, as well as the date you expect to complete reclamation;
3) Reclamation Plan. A description of how you will complete reclamation;
4) Reclamation cost estimate. An estimate of the cost to fully reclaim your operations.
BLM may require you to provide additional information. You must notify BLM in writing within 30 calendar days of any change of operator, or associated mailing address, or corporate point of contact. BLM does not require that the notice be on a particular form. However, a voluntary form encompassing the required information is provided for your convenience. The form can be filled out electronically or printed and handwritten. Completed forms should be delivered to Stephanie Carter at the Royal Gorge Field Office (by hand, email or US mail).
Plan Level Operations
You must submit a plan of operations and obtain BLM’s approval before beginning operations greater than casual use, except as described under Notice Level Operations above. Any mine development proposal that is determined to fall under the definition of mining or operations proposed within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern are typically defined as Plan Level Operations under the regulations and subject to those parts of the regulations pertaining to a Plan of Operations, as opposed to a notice.
A Plan of Operations must be submitted to the Royal Gorge Field Office, who will then review the Plan of Operations within 30 calendar days of receipt. 43 CFR 3809.401 (b) outlines the information your Plan of Operations must include to be considered complete. BLM does not require that the plan be on a particular form.
* * * NOTE – If your proposed operations involve the use of a suction dredge, prior coordination with the Royal Gorge Field Office is needed before beginning such use to determine whether you need to submit a notice or a plan to BLM, or whether your activities constitute casual use. Proposed operations involving the use of a suction dredge along the Arkansas River are typically classified as greater then casual use. Please contact the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office (RGFO) with the necessary information required for either notice- or plan-level operations (see above). * * *
We work in close cooperation with the State of Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. Here are some key links to within their website.
Recreational Placer Mining in the RGFO and along the Arkansas River corridor
Recreational mining falls under recreational regulations (43CFR 8365.1-5), not surface operations under the mining law (these activities and regulations are described above; 43CFR 3809).
Per 43CFR 8365.1-5: Except on developed recreation sites and areas (or where otherwise prohibited and posted) it is permissible to collect from the public lands reasonable amounts of rock and mineral specimens for noncommercial purposes. Motorized or mechanical devices, except metal detectors, may not be used to aid in the collection of rock and mineral specimens.
Over the Counter Notification : For notice level operations at the Point Bar Placer Area, the following thresholds apply:
- In stream (suction dredging) equipment is limited to 4-inch intake nozzle and 8 hp motors.
- On shore (high banking) equipment is limited to a 3-inch intake hose or nozzle and 8-hp in total motor size.
- Operations are permitted between April 1 and September 30.
Other Useful Links
Standard Guidance for Placer Operations - this is a shortened version to quickly explain the types of stipulations that apply to casual use and notice level work. The application forms have more complete guidance.
Cache Creek - Interesting history of the area and information about recreational placer mining activities.
Popular Placer Areas - Lists local areas where you can enjoy recreational placer mining activities. This page includes maps.