Handbook update clarifies use of mineral materials on split estate lands

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) updated its Mineral Materials Disposal Handbook to ensure consistency among BLM offices and provide clarity for companies working on split estate lands.

The guidance clarifies that a permit is not needed if a company is moving mineral materials such as sand or gravel within the boundaries of a site that has a split estate as long as the material is not used for other construction purposes. If the materials are mixed, altered or used for any construction purposes like building roads, foundations or landscaping, then a permit would be required.

“The handbook update is part of the BLM’s commitment to being a good neighbor, providing regulatory clarity and certainty, and supporting local businesses that operate on Federal lands,” said Nick Douglas, Assistant Director of Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management.

The Materials Act of 1947 authorizes the Secretary to “dispose of mineral materials” from the public lands of the United States when it is “not detrimental to the public interest” and “upon the payment of adequate compensation therefor, to be determined by the Secretary.”

The BLM’s regulations implementing this authority require mineral materials to be sold at no less than fair market value. Removal of mineral materials without a sales contract constitutes unauthorized use, subjecting the unauthorized user to liability for damages to the United States.

On split estate lands, the surface is owned by a company or individual while the mineral estate remains the property of the Federal government. with reserved federal minerals, the surface owner may generally only “use” mineral materials under a BLM-issued sales contract or permit. 

The updated handbook is available at https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/H-3600-1%20rel%203-358_0.pdf.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.

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