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General Mining Law of 1872

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 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 & 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.

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).

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.

Where can I get a mining claim in the Eastern States?

On Public Domain lands in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida, mining claims may be staked (located) for hardrock minerals. 

Public Domain lands in other states under Eastern States' jurisdiction are not open to the location of mining claims.  Mining claims can be located on open public domain land administered by another federal agency (most commonly on Forest Service land) which are open to mineral entry.

What are Public Domain lands?

Public domain minerals are those minerals that have never left Federal ownership. Reconveyed minerals are considered public domain minerals under the mining laws.  Lands that have left Federal ownership and then later acquired by the United States are said to be acquired lands.  Mining claims cannot be staked on acquired minerals; a prospecting permit (43 CFR 3500) is required to prospect for acquired minerals.  Claims may not be located in areas closed to mineral entry by a special act of Congress, regulation, or public land order. These areas are said to be "withdrawn" from mineral entry. Privately owned lands, trust lands, sovereign lands, national parks and monuments, as well as Indian and military reservations, are excluded from location of mining claims.  

In Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida, the proper BLM office to file a copy of an official mining claim record is the BLM Eastern States Office located in Springfield, Virginia.

Special note for Quartz in Arkansas.  Quartz is a locatable mineral, but P.L. 100-446, Section 323, was put into law September 27, 1988. Quartz on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas ceased to be locatable on Public Domain nor leasable on Acquired status lands and made it salable, under Forest Service authority.  For more information, please visit the Forest Service's quartz program webpage. 

•   Filing Requirements Handout

•   Annual Mining Claim Filing Requirements

** BLM Issues Interim Final Rule Regarding Placer Mining Claim Maintenance Fees 

** Notice to Claimants regarding Maintenance Fee

•   For all BLM forms, visit the following website:

BLM Maintenance Fee Payment Form For Lode Claims, Mill Sites and Tunnel Sites  Form 3830-5

BLM Maintenance Fee Payment Form for Placer Claims  Form 3830-5a

For Small Miner Exemptions, use the Maintenance Fee Waiver, BLM Maintenance Fee Waiver Form 3830-2     

•   Locating Mining Claims 43 CFR 3830
•   Locating Mining Claims 43 CFR 3832

•   Recording Mining Claims and Sites 43 CFR 3833  
•   Required Fees for Mining Claims or Sites 43 CFR 3834
•   Waivers From Annual Maintenance Fees 43 CFR 3835  
•   Annual Assessment Work Requirements for Mining Claims
43 CFR 3836
•   Acquiring a Delinquent Co-Claimant's Interest in a Mining Claim or Site 43 CFR 3837
•   Locating Mining Claims on Stockraising Homestead Act Lands 43 CFR 3838

Types of Mining Claim/Sites
  • Lode Mining Claim: Located upon deposits of mineral which are erected in or surrounded by hard rock, such as veins, fissures, lodes and disseminated ore bodies. Under federal law, the lode claim cannot exceed 1,500 feet along the length of the deposit, or more than 300 feet to either side of the center line of the deposit. Location of a lode mining claim cannot occur until a lode or vein is discovered on site.
  • Placer Mining Claim: Located upon deposits of loose, unconsolidated material, such as gravel beds, or upon certain consolidated sedimentary deposits lying at the surface. A single individual cannot locate more then 20 acres in each claim. An association of two owners may locate 40 acres; three may locate 60 acres, up to a maximum of 160 acres in a single placer claim located by eight or more persons. Corporations are limited to 20 acres per claim.
  • Mill Site: Up to five acres may be located upon non-mineral ground for the purpose of erecting a mill or smelter facility, or for a variety of purposes if the mill site is affiliated with a valid lode or placer mining claim. A mill site can only be located on lands where the government owns both the surface and mineral estates.
  • Tunnel Site: A subsurface right-of-way for veins or lodes within 3000 feet from the face of such tunnel or the end of the tunnel, whichever is shorter. A tunnel site is used to access or explore for blind veins or lodes. A tunnel site is not a mining claim. Upon discovery of a vein, a lode claim should be located according to the procedures below.
Locating a New Mining Claim
To locate a mining claim, you must be a United States citizen (or have declared your intent to become a citizen), or a corporation authorized to do business in the United States.
All mining claims are initiated by erecting a conspicuous monument at the place of discovery.  A Notice of Location must be posted, and the claims must be distinctly marked on the ground, in accordance with some state laws, so that the boundaries can be readily traced.
Post a signed copy of the Location Notice at the discovery point containing the following information:
  • The name of the claim;
  • The type of claim or site;
  • The names and addresses of the locators of the claim; and,
  • The date the discovery monument is erected and the Location Notice is posted on the ground.
If filing Lode Claims, include the number of linear feet claimed in length; along the course of the vein each way from the point of discovery, with the width claimed on each side of the center of the vein, and the general course of the vein or lode as near as possible.  A description of the claim, located by reference to some natural object or permanent monument that will identify the claim.
In addition to the above, if filing Placer Claims or Mill Sites, include the number of acres or superficial feet claimed and a description of the claim or mill site, located by reference to some natural object or permanent monument that identifies the claim or mill site. The Location Notice should be posted at one corner and within the boundaries of the claim or site.  Check your state law for clarification.
Recording a New Mining Claim
File a copy of the official record of the Notice of Location (which was or will be filed with the respective County Recorder), a map or narrative showing the location of the claim and a filing fee at the address below:

Bureau of Land Management
Eastern States Office
7450 Boston Blvd.
Springfield, VA  22153

•   Filing Requirements Handout

If the Location Notice is not received or postmarked within 90 days from the date of location, the Location Notice will not be accepted and will be returned without further action.
You must record your Location Notice with the respective County Recorder's Office within the same 90-day filing period.
The signed Location Notice must contain the following information:
  • The name of the mining claim;
  • The type of claim or site;
  • The date of location;
  • The current mailing addresses of the owners;
  • A legal description stating the approximate location of the claim or site within a quarter section, including the section, township, range and meridian, and
  • A map or narrative showing the location of the claim.
If a correction is required on the original Location Notice, an Amended Notice should be filed with the County Recorder and the BLM within 90 days after recording. The BLM charges a $10 service charge per claim.  You cannot amend a mining claim to add additional acreage or locators, or to change the type of claim, i.e. lode to placer.  The amendment must be filed with the county recorder prior to filing with the BLM.
Transfer of Interest
If there is a change of ownership, the notarized transfer document must be filed with the BLM and the County Recorder.
There is a $10 service charge for each transferee (person receiving interest in a claim for each mining claim). If two or more transferees are on the same document transferring interest, a service charge of $10 per claim must be received for each transferee.
Example: Two mining claims are being transferred and each claim has three transferees; the fee would be $60. 2 claims x 3 transferees = $60.
A transferee must pay a nonrefundable service charge per mining claim or site that you were transferred. Subpart C, 3833.30.
Prior to Operation
Contact the BLM Field Office or U.S. Forest Service Office having jurisdiction over the land where your claim is located.  Please check with the appropriate office on what type of work you are allowed to do and what steps are required, such as casual work, notice or plan of operations, and bond requirements.