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Surface Management (43 CFR 3809)

Mining operation near Spokane, WA.BLM regulates surface management on mining activity conducted on land administered by BLM. Other federal agencies such as U.S. Forest Service, have different regulations regarding surface management; if a claim is located within another agency's administrative jurisdiction, the claimant needs to check with that agency for proper procedures.

All mining activities require reasonable reclamation. The lowest level of mining activity, "casual use," is designed for the miner or weekend prospector who creates only negligible surface disturbance (for example, activities that do not involve the use of mechanized earth-moving equipment or explosives may be considered casual use). Dredging at any level of use may require a permit from the appropriate state agency administering water quality.

The second level of activity, where surface disturbance is 5 acres or less per year, requires a notice advising BLM of the anticipated work 15 days prior to commencement. This notice needs to be filed with the appropriate Field Office. No approval is needed although bonding is required. State agencies need to be notified to assure that their requirements are met.

For operations involving more than 5 acres, a detailed plan of operation must be filed with the appropriate BLM Field Office. Bonding is required to ensure proper reclamation. BLM Field Office and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will determine the bond amount. DEQ issues mining permits.

Determination of Surface Rights under Public Law 84-167 (1955)

Prior to 1955, claimants had certain surface rights associated with their mining claim. Public Law 84-167 required BLM to publish each township in each state where the United States wished to acquire complete surface management rights. Most townships were published between 1955 and 1968. The Master Title Plat for a particular township (and the Historical Index) will show if the township was published, give the date of publication, and list the claims (by claim name) that responded or were adjudicated surface rights under this Act. To maintain these surface rights under this determination, the chain of title cannot be broken.

Prior to Operation

Contact the BLM Field Office or Forest Service Office having jurisdiction over the land in which your claim is located. Please check with the appropriate office on what type of work you are allowed to do and what steps are required, such as casual work, notice or plan of operations, and bond requirements.

Last updated: 03-25-2010