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Types of Mining Claims and Sites

There are two types of mining claims (lodes and placers) and two types of sites (mill site and tunnel site).

Lode Claims

Deposits subject to lode claims include, classic veins or lodes having well defined boundaries. They also include other rock in place bearing valuable minerals and may be broad zones of mineralized rock. Examples include quartz or other veins bearing gold or other metallic minerals and large volume but low grade disseminated metallic deposits. Lode claims are usually described as parallelograms with the longer side lines parallel to the vein or lode (see Figure 1). Descriptions are by metes and bounds surveys (giving length and direction of each boundary line). Federal statute limits their size to a maximum of 1,500 feet in length along the vein or lode. Their width is a maximum of 600 feet, 300 feet on either side of the centerline of the vein or lode. The end lines of the lode claim must be parallel to qualify for underground extralateral rights. Extra lateral rights involve the rights to minerals that extend at depth beyond the vertical boundaries of the claim.

Placer Claims

Mineral deposits subject to placer claims include all those deposits not subject to lode claims. Originally, these included only deposits of unconsolidated materials, such as sand and gravel, containing free gold or other minerals. By Congressional acts and judicial interpretations, many nonmetallic bedded or layered deposits, such as gypsum and high calcium limestone, are also considered placer deposits.

Placer claims, where practicable, are located by legal subdivision (for example: Township 10 South, Range 11 East, Section 9, SE1/4). The maximum size of a placer claim is 20 acres per locator (see Figure 2). An association of two locators may locate 40 acres, and three may locate 60 acres, etc. The maximum area of an association placer claim is 160 acres for eight or more persons.

The maximum size of a placer claim for corporations is 20 acres per claim. Corporations may not locate association placer claims unless they are in association with other private individuals or other corporations as co-locators.

Methods of monumenting mining claims drawing of an ideal lode mining claim (Metes and Bound survey method)

Example of methods of monumenting mining claims drawing of an ideal lode mining claim.


Most state laws require conspicuous and substantial monuments for all types of claims and sites. NOTE: Other states have other requirements for monuments. However, it is BLM policy to not use perforated or uncapped pipe as a monument.

Methods of describing placer mining claims and mill sites examples

Methods of describing placer mining claims and mill sites examples.

Drawing of a section of land showing types of placer mining claims (PMC) and a mill site (MS)

Drawing of a section of land showing types of placer mining claims (PMC) and a mill site (MS).

Mill Sites

A mill site must be located on non-mineral land. Its purpose is to either (1) support a lode or placer mining claim operation or (2) support itself independent of any particular claim. A mill site must include the erection of a mill or reduction works and/or may include other uses reasonably incident to the support of a mining operation. Descriptions of mill sites are by metes and bounds surveys or legal subdivision. The maximum size of a mill site is 5 acres (see Figure 2).

Tunnel Sites

A tunnel site is where a tunnel is run to develop a vein or lode. It may also be used for the discovery of unknown veins or lodes. To stake a tunnel site, two stakes are placed up to 3,000 feet apart on the line of the proposed tunnel. Recordation is the same as a lode claim. Some States require additional centerline stakes (for example, in Nevada centerline stakes must be placed at 300-foot intervals).

An individual may locate lode claims to cover any or all blind (not known to exist) veins or lodes intersected by the tunnel. The maximum distance these lode claims may exist is 1,500 feet on either side of the centerline of the tunnel. This, in essence, gives the mining claimant the right to prospect an area 3,000 feet wide and 3,000 feet long. Any mining claim located for a blind lode discovered while driving a tunnel relates back in time to the date of the location of the tunnel site.

Federal Lands Open to Mining

There are federally administered lands in 19 States where you may locate a mining claim or site. These States are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In these States, the BLM manages the surface of public lands and the Forest Service manages the surface of National Forest System lands. The BLM is responsible for the subsurface on both public lands and National Forest System lands.

You may prospect and locate claims and sites on lands open to mineral entry. Claims may not be staked in areas closed to mineral entry by a special act of Congress, regulation, or public land order. These areas are withdrawn from the operation of the mining laws.

Last updated: 03-05-2010