Worland Field Office

Energy & Minerals

Wyoming's Bighorn Basin produces important mineral resources, primarily oil and gas and bentonite. The surface and the mineral rights for much of the basin are federally-owned and managed by BLM. The BLM closely monitors minerals operations on public lands to:

  • insure the least impact possible to the environment and other mineral resources, and
  • insure the American taxpayers receive the proper royalties based on production.

Oil and gas development began in the Bighorn Basin in 1884 with the discovery of the oil seep at Bonanza anticline in Big Horn County. Oil and gas are leasable minerals. Producers bid for the right to explore for and develop oil and natural gas. In addition, they pay annual rentals and royalties from any production. The public lands remain in federal ownership.

Bentonite, on the other hand, is a locatable mineral. Bentonite is a special type of clay with hundreds of industrial uses, from cosmetics to kitty litter. A person locating a deposit of bentonite stakes a mining claim. If the locator can prove that the deposit can be mined economically, he or she can apply for and receive a patent (title) to the claim.

Sand, gravel, stone and other common construction materials are salable. Commercial enterprises, local governments, nonprofit organizations and do-it-yourselfers can obtain moss rock, flagstone and decorative building stone from the public lands after getting a permit from the BLM.