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The BLM administers approximately 36.5 million subsurface acres in Idaho, along with mining claim records and mineral leases for lands managed by other Federal agencies.

Minerals in the Federal estate are categorized as leasable, salable, or locatable.  Each classification is administered differently according to federal regulations and may have different requirements for acquisition, exploration, and development.

Rockhounding is non-commercial, recreational collecting of rocks, mineral specimens, gemstones, or petrified wood and is considered a casual use of public lands under most circumstances. Recreational panning is permitted in some of Idaho's streams and rivers by the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) in some streams and rivers. Learn more about small suction dredging on BLM lands.

Leasable Minerals
Leasable minerals are explored-for and developed in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, other leasing acts and BLM regulations.  Leasable minerals today include oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, potash, sodium, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, phosphate, sulfur, and coal. 

The Western Phosphate Field in southeastern Idaho is the largest remaining phosphate deposit in the U.S. The BLM Pocatello Field Office administers the Bureau's largest and most complex non-energy leasable minerals program in this phosphate field.

Locatable Minerals 
Rockhounding is collecting rocks, mineral specimens, gemstones, or petrified wood and is considered a casual use of public lands under most circumstances. Recreational panning is permitted by the Idaho Department of Water Resources in some streams and rivers. IDWR Learn more about small suction dredging on BLM lands.  Meteorites? You can also collect up to 10 pounds a year for free without a permit  as long as it is not sold or bartered.  If for commercial use you need a land use permit. For scientific or educational use you must obtain a Antiquities Act permit (read the reference information here).

Locatable minerals are any minerals not leasable or salable, and are managed under the General Mining Law of 1872 and BLM regulations (43 CFR 3700 and 3800). Typical locatable minerals are gold, silver, copper, gemstones, lead, zinc, barite, gypsum, and certain varieties of high calcium limestone.  Molybdenum — found in large quantities near Challis — is also locatable.

Locatable minerals can be obtained by filing a mining claim. Learn more about mining claims and sites on Federal Lands. Blue Book: Locating Mining Claims (2015)

ATTENTION MINING CLAIMANTS: Effective June 30, 2014 the 2015 mining claim fee has increased to $155 and the location fee for new claims located on or after September 1, 2014 will be $37. Also, you may now pay your annual mining claim maintenance fee online with a credit card. Learn more about these changes.

The 1872 Mining Law grants U.S. citizens the right to prospect, explore, and develop these minerals on public domain lands that have not been “withdrawn” from mineral entry by Congress or the Secretary of the Interior.

Salable Minerals (Mineral Materials)
Salable minerals, or mineral materials, are common varieties of minerals and building materials such as sand, stone, gravel, pumice, pumicite, cinders, and clay. The BLM manages salable minerals under the Materials Act of 1947, as amended, and implementing regulations (43 CFR 3600), which authorize disposal either through a contract of sale or a free use permit. The BLM may issue free use permits to a government agency or a non-profit organization. The Forest Service administers the disposal of salable minerals from National Forest System lands.

Generally, salable minerals are widespread, of low unit value, and are often used for construction or landscaping materials. Their value depends largely on market factors, quality of the material, availability of transportation, and transportation costs. See Idaho's Community Pits.

Thompson Creek molybdenum mine in Custer County, Idaho


  • Smoky Canyon Record of Decision
  • Agencies Announce Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the East Smoky Panel Mine Project at Smoky Canyon Mine
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement available for Smoky Canyon Mine Panels F&G
  • Final EIS available for Thompson Creek Mine proposed expansion


BLM Solid Minerals Program 
includes Leasable and Locatable Minerals

BLM Coal Program

Blue Book: Locating Mining Claims (2015)

LR2000 Reference Guide