Explanation of "Location"

Explanation of "Location" 

Mining Claims and Sites

A person who is a citizen of the United States or has declared an intention to become a citizen with the Immigration and Naturalization Service may locate and hold a mining claim or site. A corporation organized under State law is considered a citizen and may locate and hold a mining claim or site. A corporation is held to the same standards as a citizen.  Non-citizens are not permitted to own or have an interest in mining claims or sites.  There is no limit to the number of claims and sites that you may hold as a qualified claimant, as long as the requirements of the General Mining Law have been met.   

A mining claim is a selected parcel of Federal land, valuable for a specific mineral deposit or deposits, for which you have asserted a right of possession under the General Mining Law.  Your right is restricted to the development and extraction of a mineral deposit. The rights granted by a mining claim protect against a challenge by the United States and other claimants only after the discovery of a valuable mineral deposit. The two types of mining claims are lode and placer.  In addition, mill sites and tunnel sites may be located to provide support facilities for lode and placer mining claims (43 CFR Part 3832).    

Lode Claims cover classic veins or lodes having well-defined boundaries and also include other rock in-place bearing valuable mineral deposits. Examples include quartz or other veins bearing gold or other metallic mineral deposits and large volume, but low-grade disseminated metallic deposits, such as Carlin-type gold deposits and copper-bearing granites.  Lode claims are usually located as parallelograms with the side lines parallel to the vein or lode (see Figure 1). Descriptions are by metes and bounds surveys (giving the length and compass bearing of each boundary line from a central point or monument to each corner post, and then sequentially around the perimeter of the claim).  Federal statute limits a lode claim to a maximum of 1,500'  in length along the vein or lode. Their width is a maximum of 600' , 300' 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. Extralateral rights involve the rights to minerals in vein or lode form that extend at depth outside the vertical boundaries of the claim.  (43 CFR Part 3832, Subpart B). 

Placer Claims cover all those deposits not subject to lode claims. Originally, placer claims included only deposits of mineral-bearing sand and gravel containing free gold or other detrital minerals. By Congressional acts and judicial interpretations, many nonmetallic bedded or layered deposits, such as gypsum and high-calcium limestone, are located as placer claims.  Where possible, placer claims are to be located by legal subdivision, such as the E1/2NE1/4NE1/4, Section 2, Township 2 South, Range 4 East, Salt Lake Meridian, Utah (30 U.S.C. § 35 and 43 CFR 3832, Subparts A and B). The maximum size of a placer claim you may locate is 20 acres (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 permitted by law is 160 acres for eight or more persons.

The maximum size of a placer claim for a corporation 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.  (43 CFR Part 3832, Subpart B). 

Lands Described by Placer Claims Must Be Contiguous:  Two or more persons, or associations of persons, having contiguous claims of any size may make joint entry thereof although such claims may be less than 10 acres each. A placer claim that is divided into separate tracts of land by land that is closed to location cannot be considered as a single location. (Note:  If section contains survey lots, you must describe placer claim by survey lots, tracts, and/or protraction block (PB).)   

It is well established that lands covered by a single placer claim must be contiguous; two separate tracts that corner are not contiguous and cannot be included in a single location. W.G. Singleton, 75 IBLA 168 (1983). 

Figure 1. Example of Methods of Monumenting Mining Claims
Drawing of an ideal lode mining claim (Metes and Bounds survey method).

Figure 1. Example of Methods of Monumenting Mining Claims Drawing of an ideal lode mining claim (Metes and Bound survey method)


Most State laws require conspicuous and substantial monuments for
all types of claims and sites.
NOTE: Many states have other requirements for monuments. Due to wildlife fatalities, BLM 
does not allow the use of perforated or uncapped pipe as monuments, corner posts, or side line posts.

 Monument Types 


Figure 2. Methods of Describing Placer Mining Claims and Mill Sites
Drawing of a section of land showing types of placer mining claims 
and a mill site.  The legal description method is based on the
 U.S. Public Land Survey.
Drawing of a section of land showing types of placer mining claims

Mill Sites must be located on non-mineral land. The mill site may be located in the same manner as a lode or a placer mining claim. Its purpose is to either:
 • Support a lode or placer mining claim operation; or
 • Support itself independent of any particular claim by custom milling or reduction of ores from one or more mines. 

A mill site must either include the erection of a mill for grinding, crushing, flotation, or chemical processing of ores; or a reduction works for chemical processing of ores, siting of furnaces, and related facilities.  This may include other uses reasonably incident to the support of a mining operation, including tailing impoundments, waste dumps, and leach pads.  Mill sites are described either by metes and bounds surveys or by legal subdivision. The maximum size of a mill site is 5 acres (see Figure 2).  You may hold as many mill sites as necessary for the support of the mining operation.  (43 CFR Part 3832, Subpart C).

Tunnel Sites are  tunnels excavated to develop a vein or lode. They are also used for the discovery of unknown veins or lodes. To locate a tunnel site, place two stakes up to 3,000' apart on the surface axis of the proposed tunnel. The compass bearing and distance of the tunnel must be posted at the entrance to the tunnel.  Tunnel sites must be recorded in the same manner as lode claims.  Some States require additional centerline stakes (for example, in Nevada centerline stakes must be placed at 300' intervals).  

Lode claims must be located over any or all blind (not known to exist at the surface) veins or lodes discovered by the tunnel in order to maintain possession of the lodes or veins.  The maximum distance these lode claims may exist is 1,500' on either side of the centerline of the tunnel. This, in essence, gives you the right to prospect underground an area 3,000' wide and 3,000' long. Any mining claim you locate for a blind lode discovered while driving a tunnel has the same location date as the date of location of the tunnel site.  (43 CFR Part 3832, Subpart D). 
Federal Lands Open to Mining

There are 19 States where you may locate mining claims or sites. These States are Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The BLM manages the surface of public lands in these States 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 located in areas closed to mineral entry.  Subject to valid existing rights, these areas are withdrawn from further location of mining claims or sites.

Areas Withdrawn from Mineral Entry Include: National Parks, National Monuments, American Indian reservations, most reclamation projects, military reservations, scientific testing areas, most wildlife protection areas (such as Federal wildlife refuges), and lands withdrawn from mineral entry for other reasons. Lands withdrawn for power development are subject to mining location and entry only under certain conditions. Mining claims may not be located on lands that have been:
• Designated by Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System;
• Designated as a wild portion of a wild and scenic river; or
• Withdrawn by Congress for study as a wild and scenic river.

There is usually a ¼-mile buffer zone withdrawn from location of mining claims or sites from either side of a river while the river is being studied for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  Additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System are withdrawn to mining claim and site location at the time of designation by Congress.  Mining activities are permitted only on those mining claims that can show proof of a discovery either by December 31, 1983, or on the date of designation as wilderness by Congress.  

Also, land transferred out of Federal ownership and Federal aid highway right-of-way roads and material sites are closed to location. 

A placer claim that is divided into separate tracts of land by land that is closed to location cannot be considered as a single location.

Staking a Mining Claim or Site

Federal law simply specifies that claim and site boundaries must be distinctly and clearly marked to be readily identifiable on the ground (43 CFR Part 3832). The General Mining Law allows States to establish their own laws regarding the manner in which mining claims and sites are located and recorded.   Location requirements include the placement, size, and acceptable materials for a corner post or a discovery monument.  Check with the proper State agency before locating mining claims.  State agencies may include the State's geological survey, mineral resource department, lands commission, or department of environmental protection.

Generally, staking a mining claim requires: 
• Erecting corner posts or monuments;
• Posting a notice of location on a post or monument in a conspicuous place (see Figures 1 and 2); and
• Complying with the requirements of 43 CFR Part 3830, 3832, and 3833. 

The location date is the date the discovery monument is erected and the notice of location is posted on the ground.

The conspicuous place on the claim is usually the point of discovery. The discovery point must be tied to some well-known, permanent object.  Examples of permanent objects include and existing cadastral survey monument, a benchmark, a bridge, a fork of a stream, or a road interseciton.  Several States also require side-line or end-line posts or monuments for claims. Mining claims and sites described by legal subdivision in some States do not require the erection of corner monuments (see Figure 2). However, all mining claims and sites must have a location or discovery monument. Be sure to check what the law requires in the State where the mining claims and sites are to be located.

For a specific tract of land, check the official land records at the BLM State Office or Field Office responsible for administering the land area. Rather than looking randomly through the records for lands open to location, it is better to restrict your search to a specific area of interest. Topographic maps of the area (published by the U.S. Geological Survey) provide the legal description (meridian, township, range and section) of such lands. Visit the local BLM State Office or Field Office and check maps, the BLM Master Title Plats, mining claim records, and files. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to determine if there are prior existing mining claims on the ground. 

Staking a Mining Claim or Site on Lands Subject to Stock Raising Homestead Act

Special procedures must be complied by individuals/companies prior to locating mining claims on land were the surface is patented, and the minerals are reserved or disposed under the Stock Raising Homestead Act (SRHA) of December 29, 1916. A "Notice of Intent to Locate" (NOITL) must be filed with the proper BLM State Office prior to locating a claim. BLM service charge is $30. See procedures for locating claims on SRHA lands.

Prior to Operation: Contact the BLM Field Office and/or Forest Service Office having jurisdiction over the land in which your claim/site 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.