About Mining and Minerals

The Mining Law, as amended, opened the public lands of the United States to mineral acquisition by the location and maintenance of mining claims.  Mineral deposits subject to acquisition in this manner are generally referred to as "locatable minerals."  Locatable minerals include both metallic minerals (gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, etc.) and nonmetallic minerals (fluorspar, mica, certain limestones and gypsum, tantalum, heavy minerals in placer form, and gemstones).  It is very difficult to prepare a complete list of locatable minerals because the history of the law has resulted in a definition of minerals that includes economics.

Starting in 1873, the Department of the Interior began defining locatable minerals as those minerals that are:

  • recognized as a mineral by the standard experts,
  • are not subject to disposal under some other law, and
  • make the land more valuable for mining than for farming.

Minerals normally locatable on lands acquired (purchased or received) under the Acquired Lands Act of 1947 by the United States or found on Indian reservations are subject to lease only (43 CFR Group 3500).  

Since 1955, common varieties of sand, gravel, stone, pumice, pumicite and cinders were removed from the Mining Law and placed under the Materials Act of 1947, as amended.  Use of salable minerals requires either a sales contract or a free-use permit. (43 CFR Part 3600).

Uncommon varieties of saleable-type minerals may be locatable if the deposits meet certain tests created by various judicial and administrative decisions. Federal certified mineral examiners determine uncommon variety minerals on a case-by-case basis. (43 CFR Part 3830, Subpart C)

Since 1920, the Federal government has leased fuels and certain other minerals, charging a royalty on the value of the mined and sold material. Today, minerals that are subject to lease include oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, potash, sodium, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, phosphate, and coal.  In some states, sulphur is also subject to lease. 


Mining Law of 1872
The federal law governing locatable minerals is the Mining Law of 1872 (May 10, 1872), which declared all valuable mineral deposits in land belonging to the United States to be free and open to exploration and purchase.  This law provides citizens of the United States the opportunity to explore for, discover, and purchase certain valuable mineral deposits on federal lands that are open for mining location and patent (open to mineral entry).

Mineral Leasing Act of 1920
This law provided for the leasing of minerals from public lands including oil, gas, coal and other non-energy leasable minerals such as phosphates and sodium. It requires that a royalty be paid on amounts mined and sold.

Materials Act of 1947 
This law provides for the disposal of mining materials on public lands, both saleable and leasable.  Under this Act, some “common variety” minerals, such as sand and gravel, are subject to sale as opposed to rents and royalties.

Mining and Mineral Policy of 1970
This law declares that it is the continuing policy of the federal government to foster and encourage private enterprise in the development of a stable domestic minerals industry and the orderly and economic development of domestic mineral resources. This act includes all minerals, including sand and gravel, geothermal, coal, and oil and gas.

Stock Raising Homestead Act Amendment of April 16, 1993 
Stock Raising Homestead Act (SRHA) lands are different from other federal lands in that the United States owns the mineral estate, but not the surface estate.  Patents issued under the SRHA and Homestead Act entries patented under the SRHA reserve the mineral estate to the United States along with the right to enter, mine, and remove any reserved minerals that may be present in the mineral estate. 

Federal Land Policy & 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, and all new claims and sites were required to be recorded with the BLM.  The law gave the BLM information on the location and number of unpatented mining claims, mill sites, and tunnel sites; helped determine the names and addresses of current owners; and helped remove any cloud of title on abandoned claims.

BLM Regulations

The following is a list of commonly used mining-related entries in the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR):

43 CFR 1822.10 - How should my name appear on applications and other required documents that I submit to BLM?

43 CFR 1822.14 - What if I try to file a required document on the last day of the stated period for filing, but the BLM office where it is to be filed is officially closed all day?

NoteFor documents and fees delivered in person, you or your representative may bring documents or payments to the proper BLM office by close of business on or before the due date.  If the office is officially closed all day on the due date, payments may be brought in the next day the office is officially open.
43 CFR 3000.12 - What is the fee schedule for fixed fees? 

43 CFR 3710 - Public Law 167; Act of July 23, 1955

43 CFR 3730 - Public Law 359; Mining in Powersite Withdrawals; General

43 CFR 3740 - Public Law 585; Multiple Mineral Development 

43 CFR 3800 - Mining Claims under the General Mining Laws (Includes 3809 Surface Management Regulations)

43 CFR 3810 - Lands and Minerals Subject to Location 

43 CFR 3820 - Areas Subject to Special Mining Laws  

43 CFR 3830 - Locating, Recording, and Maintaining Mining Claims or Sites; General Provision 

43 CFR 3832 - Locating Mining Claims or Sites

43 CFR 3833 - Recording Mining Claims and Sites 
43 CFR 3834 - Required Fees for Mining Claims or Sites

43 CFR 3835 - Waivers from Annual Maintenance Fees 

43 CFR 3836 - Annual Assessment Work Requirements for Mining Claims 

43 CFR 3837 - Acquiring a Delinquent Co-Claimant's Interest in a Mining Claim or a Site

43 CFR 3838 - Special Procedures for Locating and Recording Mining Claims and Tunnel Sites on Stockraising Homestead Act (SRHA) Lands 

43 CFR 3860 – Mineral Patent Applications

43 CFR 3870 - Adverse Claims, Protests and Conflicts

State Information

Read state information about the BLM's mining and minerals activities.