Locatable Minerals Definition
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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.
Starting in 1873, the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) began defining locatable minerals as those minerals that are recognized as a mineral by the standard experts, are not subject to disposal under some other law, and make the land more valuable for mining purposes than for agriculture. Minerals normally locatable on lands acquired (purchased or received) under the Acquired Lands Act of 1947 by the United States or found on American Indian reservations are subject to lease only (43 CFR Group 3500). Therefore, it is easier for BLM to list the minerals that are not locatable because of the complexities listed previously.
Since July 23, 1955, common varieties of sand, gravel, stone, pumice, pumicite, and cinders were removed from the General Mining Law and placed under the Materials Act of 1947, as amended. Use of salable minerals requires either a sales contract or a free-use permit. Disposals of salable minerals from BLM administered lands are regulated by 43 CFR Part 3600.
Uncommon varieties of salable-type minerals may be locatable if the deposits meet certain tests created by various judicial and administrative decisions. See McClarty v. Secretary of the Interior, 408 F. 2d 907 (9th Cir., 1969). Federal certified mineral examiners determine uncommon variety on a case-by-case basis. (See 43 CFR Part 3830, Subpart C, for further information concerning the locatability of minerals.)
Since 1920, the Federal Government has leased fuels and certain other minerals (43 CFR Parts 3000-3590). Today, minerals that are subject to lease include oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, potash, sodium, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, phosphate, and coal. In Louisiana and New Mexico, sulphur is also subject to lease.