Rock Springs Field Office

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Locatable Minerals

Gold panning.
Gold panning.
Stamp mill.
Stamp mill.
Locatable minerals are minerals that may be “located” with a mining claim under the General Mining Law of 1872, (Act of May 10, 1872 (17. Stat. 92; 30 U.S.C. 28)), as amended. 

Locatable minerals include, but are not limited to, gold, silver, platinum, precious gems, uranium, bentonite, chemical grade limestone, chemical grade silica sand and gypsum. 

Uncommon varieties of mineral materials such as pumice, rock and cinders are also regulated as locatable minerals. A determination that a variety is "uncommon" and subject to the General Mining Law is made by BLM on a case-by-case basis.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, in conjunction with BLM, maintains mining reclamation bonds for the locatable minerals program. BLM regularly reviews and updates bonds and financial guarantees for notices and plans.

General Mining Law of 1872

The General Mining Law of 1872 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 the public lands. 

The 1872 Mining Law also provided for the transfer of the land upon which a mining claim has been filed - as opposed to the minerals which were claimed - from federal to private ownership provided certain provisions were met.  Transfers of land ownership - acquiring a patent to the land - are currently prohibited by a congressionally-imposed moratorium until Congress determines whether the law should be changed.

Federal Land Policy & Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA)

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) required mining claimants to record their claims with BLM by October, 1979.  In addition, all new claims were also required to be recorded with BLM in order to provide BLM with information on the location and number of unpatented mining claims, mill sites and tunnel sites, to determine the names and addresses of current owners, and to remove any cloud of title on abandoned mining claims. 

Mining Claims

For more information about how to file a mining claim please refer to the BLM Wyoming State Mining Claims webpage.

For on-the-ground operations involving surface disturbance beyond casual use, claimants must file with the Rock Springs Field Office either a Mining Notice or a Plan of Operations, depending on the nature, location and extent of the planned activity. For a complete description of the procedures to follow, please refer to 43 CFR §3800.

Mining History of the South Pass

Gold may have been discovered as early as 1842 in the South Pass region. This initial discovery was probably made in the area presently known as the Lewiston District. Due to the remoteness of the South Pass area and a hostile environment, no significant developments occurred for another 20 years.

In 1855, a party of 40 men led by the original discoverer prospected the region and did some sluicing along the Sweetwater River. The leader of the first party returned with eight men in 1860 and began placer operations on Strawberry Creek.

In the fall of 1861, 50 men had collected at South Pass City with the intent of mining the following spring, however this party was driven out by Native Americans, and it was not until 1866 that they returned and began mining operations began in the spring of 1867.

On June 8, 1867, the Carissa Lode was discovered by H. S. Reedall, but the miners eventually had to abandon their efforts due to attacks by Native Americans. Some of the survivors eventually returned and were able to extract nearly $9,000 in gold from the claim. The news of this success spread rapidly, resulting in a "gold rush" of 500 men 1868.  More than 2,000 people lived in the area by July, 1869. 

The first stamp mill was erected on Hermit Gulch and consisted of six stamps driven by an overshot water wheel. Placer work had been done in many places, including Carissa Gulch; a tributary to Willow Creek on Big Atlantic, Smith and Promise Gulches; tributaries of Rock Creek and along Rock Creek and Atlantic City; and on Spring, Yankee and Meadow Gulches, and across the Beaver Creek Divide.

In 1886, the placer claims on Spring Gulch and Miners Delight were still being worked. In 1884, a French company purchased placer claims on Willow, Rock and Strawberry Creeks and commenced construction on a ditch to bring water from Rock Creek to be utilized in hydraulic mining. Before the ditch was completed in 1886, plans were made for diverting the water of Christina Lake, near the head of the Little Popo Agie River; this project was completed and provided water for mining at a rate of 8,000 miner’s inches. A hydraulic elevator was constructed on Rock Creek, below Atlantic City, and was operated for three seasons 1890 through 1892. The total value of gold recovered is estimated to have been about $200,000.

No major gold operations have recovered significant gold in the South Pass area since the 1890s.