Surface Management of Locatable Minerals

Exploration, mining, and mineral processing activities involving locatable minerals on BLM-administered land are controlled by the regulations at 43 CFR Subparts 3715 and 3809 and in Wilderness Study Areas, 43 CFR Subpart 3802. 

Operators are required by these regulations to prevent unnecessary and undue degradation or avoid impairment of wilderness characteristics. Surface Management Handbook H-3809-1 explains policies, processes and procedures for the implementation of the 3809 regulations.  The 3809-2 Handbook Surface Management Bond Processing explains the policies and procedures for processing bonds required under the 3809 regulations.

Casual use activities are those that would cause negligible disturbance; such as collection of rock and mineral specimens with hand tools, hand panning and not involving mechanized equipment or explosives. Advanced contact with the BLM Field Office may be required for those intending to conduct casual use in areas where the cumulative effects of casual use may cause more than negligible disturbance. For activities under Subpart 3809 other than casual use, operators are required to either submit a notice or a plan of operations.

Notices are submitted for exploration activities covering 5 acres or less and the removal of bulk samples of less than 1,000 tons of presumed ore for testing.  Exploration on tunnel sites would typically require the filing of a notice. Operators must not segment a project by submitting a series of notices for the purpose of avoiding filing a plan of operations. Notices are filed with the appropriate BLM Field Office.

A plan of operations is required for any exploration that would disturb more than 5 acres, involve bulk sampling of 1,000 tons of more of presumed ore for testing, and for operations greater than casual use in special status areas as listed at 3809.11(c).  A plan of operations is typically required for operations on mill sites. Plans are filed with the appropriate Field Office. 

Use and occupancy of the public lands in association with the development of locatable mineral deposits must be approved by the appropriate BLM Field Office; see 43 CFR Subpart 3715. The location of a mining claim, mill site or tunnel site does not give the claimant an exclusive right to surface resources of the claim or site.