Mineral Material Sales
Carson City District
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Mineral Material Sales

How to Obtain Sand, Gravel and other Mineral Materials from BLM Administered Federal Lands

The Department of the Interior's, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a multiple-use land management agency responsible for administering 270 million acres of public land located in the Western United States, including Alaska. The BLM manages many resource programs such as minerals, forestry, wilderness, recreation, fish and wildlife, wild horses and burros, archaeology, and rangeland.

This article provides general information on the mineral materials program. Mineral materials include common varieties of sand, stone, gravel, pumice, pumicite, clay, rock, and petrified wood. The major Federal law governing mineral materials is the Materials Act of 1947 (July 31, 1947), as amended (30 U.S. Code 601 et seq.). This law authorizes the BLM to sell mineral materials at fair market value and to grant free use permits for mineral materials to Government agencies. It also allows the BLM to issue free use permits for a limited amount of material to nonprofit organizations.

Mineral materials are some of our most basic natural resources. These materials are used in everyday construction, agriculture, and decorative applications. The United States uses about two billion tons of crushed stone, dimension stone, and sand and gravel annually. Our highways, bridges, power plants, dams, high-rise buildings, railroad beds and airport runways, along with their foundations and sidewalks, all use mineral materials of one type or another.

Separating naturally occurring mineral materials from the earth is neither easy nor inexpensive. The sheer weight of materials like stone makes their transportation costs high. Therefore, adequate local supplies of these basic resources are vital to the economic life of every community. It is the BLM's policy to make these materials available to the public and local governmental agencies whenever possible and wherever it is environmentally acceptable.

The BLM issues about 2,000 permits and sales contracts annually, with a total value exceeding $5 million. In the Western States, 76 percent of the money derived from BLM sales is deposited in the Reclamation (trust) Fund, 20 percent goes to the General (Federal) Treasury, and 4 percent goes to the State in which the sales were made. In Alaska, 4 percent goes to the State and 96 percent goes to the General Treasury. Some examples are:

Mineral Material
Sand, gravel, weathered granite, crushed rocks, boulders, dimension stone, lightweight aggregate, clay, riprap

Used as fill and for construction of highways and roads, streets, urban and suburban developments, canals, aqueducts, pond linings, etc

Mineral Material
Pumice, lava and other volcanic stone, pebbles, cobbles. Boulders, colored stone, moss rock, picture rock, baked shale, marble, cut stone, etc.

Used for decoration and landscaping in flower and rock gardens, yards, veneers on walls and fireplaces, memorials, etc.

Mineral Material
Peat, humates, sand.

Used in agriculture as soil conditioners.

Mineral Material
Gypsum, clay, limestone, etc

Used in industry for foundry work, as binders, sealants, chemical processes, filtration, etc.

NOTE: The BLM does not sell soil that is essential for growth of vegetation.

Sampling and Exploration
Mineral materials can usually be found on or near the surface of the public lands. However, when mineral materials are covered by soil and vegetation, it may be necessary to perform drilling or trenching to determine the quality and quantity of the deposit. These activities must be authorized in writing (letter of authorization) by the BLM. Bonding and reclamation requirements may be imposed on sampling and testing activities. The findings of sampling and testing activities must be submitted to the BLM. If the findings contain confidential or privileged information, this information must be identified by the permittee so that it may be excluded from public inspection under the Freedom of Information Act.

Persons interested in buying mineral materials should contact the BLM-Carson City Field Office at (775) 885-6000. Many people request only a few tons or cubic yards. Others, such as construction contractors or nurseries, may request thousands of tons or cubic yards. Regulations governing contracts and permits for mineral materials are contained in Title 43 Code of Federal Regulations, Subparts 3610 and 3620 respectively.

For sales of less than $1,000.00 fair market value, a small sales contract can be obtained. When small sales are made from a community pit or common use area, contracts can be obtained "over-the-counter" from the BLM usually on the same day.

Generally, community pits and common use areas are close to communities and are easily accessible for the convenience of the public. They are established by the BLM to reduce the amount of surface disturbance in areas known to have a large public demand for mineral materials. No one contractor has exclusive rights to the mineral materials in a community pit or common use area. Common use areas usually cover a larger area than a community pit. Also, the designation of a common use area does not establish a superior right to the use of the land against other claims or uses, as occurs with the designation of a community pit

Larger sales contacts, for areas outside of community pits, will take longer to process. This is because the BLM must assess the environmental impacts of the proposal, including public involvement where appropriate. The BLM must also determine whether or not there is competitive interest for the mineral material being sought. If so, a competitive sale will be held and the interested parties will be required to submit sealed bids, sometimes followed by oral bids. If there is no competitive interest, then a noncompetitive (negotiated) sale may be made.

The upper limit on the amount of material that may be extracted in a single noncompetitive (negotiated) sale is 100,000 cubic yards (or weight equivalent). Also, individual permittees are limited to a total of 200,000 cubic yards (or weight equivalent) in any one State during any period of 12 consecutive months. Noncompetitive contracts can be no longer than 5 years in duration, although extensions may be allowed under certain circumstances.

Free Use Permits
Free use permits may be granted to governmental agencies, and nonprofit organizations and corporations. The permittee is not allowed to barter or sell the mineral materials acquired under the permit. Federal. State, and local governmental agencies may be granted free use permits for mineral materials, if they can show that a public need exists for the material. There is no limitation on the number of permits that can be issued to any one governmental agency. Also, there is no volume, weight, or value limitation. The duration of a free use permit to a governmental agency is no longer than 10 years, with a possible one year extension.

Nonprofit organizations and corporations, such as churches, scouting organizations, and rifle clubs, may be authorized to remove up to 5,000 cubic yards (or weight equivalent). The removal must be made in a period of 12 consecutive months. The duration of a free use permit to a nonprofit organization is no longer that one year, with a possible one year extension. Limited quantities of petrified wood may be collected without charge for noncommercial (hobby collecting) purposes. Petrified wood collected for commercial purposes must be bought from the BLM under a sales contract. The maximum quantity of petrified wood that any one person is allowed to remove without charge in one day is 25 pounds plus one piece. The maximum quantity any one person is allowed to remove without charge in one calendar year is 250 pounds. Free use permits may be issued for collecting individual specimens of petrified wood weighing over 250 pounds. However, the applicant must certify that the specimen will be displayed to the public in a museum or similar institution.

Environmental and Reclamation Considerations
Before issuing contracts or free use permits, the BLM must conduct appropriate environmental assessments. These include special studies or inventories of cultural values, threatened or endangered plant and wildlife species, or other resources. Stipulations or conditions may be included in the terms of the contract to assure protection of the environment and reclamation of the land. Reclamation is a requirement following any surface disturbing activity. Reclamation of disturbed sites is important to be sure that the land can later be used productively for other purposes. Reclamation includes removing all surface debris, recontouring, reducing steep slopes, and planting vegetation. All reclamation proposals must conform to State agency requirements and must be approved by the BLM.

Terms of Contracts and Free Use Permits
The terms of sale contracts and free use permits are specific and in writing. The terms include location of the land, value of the material per cubic yard or ton, a payment schedule, bonding requirements, duration of the permit or contract, measures to protect the environment, and reclamation standards.

Unauthorized Removal
Persons who remove mineral materials from public lands without a permit or contract are considered unauthorized users and in trespass. These users will be held liable for damages. In addition, such users may be fined up to $1,000.00 and sentenced to one year in jail. This does not apply to hobby collection of stone or petrified wood where reasonable amounts of this material are taken without a permit for personal or nonprofit use.

For more information about the mineral materials program contact the BLM office nearest to the mineral materials you are interested in obtaining.

Last updated: 08-08-2008