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Mining Claims and Sites

Mining Claims and Sites

The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended

The Mining Law of 1872 governs mining claims and sites located on Federal lands.  It declared that public lands that are open to mineral-entry be available for development and extraction of metallic and nonmetallic locatable minerals by United States citizens. The law also encourages mining companies to initiate exploration and development of such minerals.

Federal Land Policy and 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 the BLM by October 1979, and all new claims were required to be recorded with the BLM. FLPMA’s purpose was to provide the 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 remove any cloud of title on abandoned claims.

The purpose of locating a mining claim or site.

A mining claim on Federal land gives a mining company exclusive rights to develop the minerals under the claim beginning on the date the mining claim was located. Within a mining claim, the surface lands remain open to the public for other multiple uses.

Miners may locate mining claims/sites to obtain exclusive rights, beginning on the date the valid claim was located, to develop the minerals under the claim. 

A mining claim is located in order to acquire the right to develop the mineral values in a specified area.  Locating a mining claim requires a discovery of a valuable mineral. The claim must have a substantial monument on each corner and at the discovery point within the mining claim boundaries. A certificate of location and map along with the proper fees must be filed with the BLM Colorado State Office. 


Mining Claims on Federal Lands Brochure


Antique Mining Equiptment
Patenting a Mining Claim

Since October 1, 1994, the BLM has been prohibited from accepting new mineral patent applications by a congressional moratorium.  The moratorium has been renewed annually through the various Interior Appropriations Acts.  The requirements for filing mineral patent applications may be found at 43 CFR 3860.

Notice to Mining Claimants

Mining laws permit prospectors and miners to make reasonable use of a mining claim as long as the use is incident and necessary to prospecting, mining and processing operations under the 43 CFR 3809 & 3715 regulations. However, an erroneous impression sometimes exists to the effect that the act of staking a mining claim is the shortest route to obtaining public land for a homesite, weekend retreat, or other similarly unlawful purpose.

The United States has paramount ownership in the land in which it has a duty and right to protect against waste and unauthorized use. A mining claimant has merely a possessory interest in a valid location for the purpose of mining until his location is canceled.
Any use of the surface for the purpose of mining on an unpatented claim is only allowed by permit. Use of the surface for purposes unrelated to mining is unauthorized and therefore considered to be in trespass. Whether the claim is valid or invalid, the BLM will proceed to terminate the unauthorized use and collect any damages from the beginning of the wrongful occupancy.
The unauthorized use of a mining claim can become a very serious problem for the claimant, particularly when a valuable improvement is constructed or placed on an unpatented claim. A person stands to lose all of his/her investment because of such trespass action. In many cases, we have found that unauthorized use began because of the claimant’s lack of knowledge of the mining laws. Therefore, we are cautioning owners of mining locations in an effort to prevent any future difficulties and to encourage the proper use of public lands.