Bull elk on Elk Mountain near Newcastle, Wyoming. Photo by Nate West. Oil rig in Wyoming. Wild horse near Rock Springs, Wyoming. Coal mining operations in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming. Pronghorn in Wyoming.
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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.

Limestone exploration drilling.
Truck-mounted core drilling rig being 
used to obtain samples of limestone in
south-central Albany County, Wyoming.
Testing is an integral part of determining
the chemistry of the rock and its 
potential end-use (RFO).
Bentonite drilling in open pit mine.
Truck-mounted auger drill rig in a 
bentonite clay open pit mine in Big Horn
County, Wyoming. Such clays are sampled 
and tested to determine their potential 
end-use at the bentonite processing 
plant (CYFO).
In-situ recovery of uranium.
Preparing an area for in-situ recovery 
of uranium in southern Converse County, 
Wyoming. The piles consist of soil and 
loose subsoil material that will be used 
in the reclamation of the surface 
disturbances (CFO).
Casual use activities are those that would cause negligible disturbance; e.g., 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 has or may result in more than negligible disturbance. Those planning to conduct suction dredging operations must contact the appropriate BLM Wyoming Field Office. 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 Wyoming Field Office.

A plan of operations is required for any exploration that would disturb more than five acres, involving 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. Whenever the BLM determines that an EIS must be prepared as part of the processing of an EIS, the applicant must pay a processing fee (see 3800.5(a) and 3000.11).

An applicant for any action for which a mineral examination, including a validity examination or common variety determination, and their associated reports, is performed under §3809.100 [withdrawn or segregated lands] or §3809.101 [materials such as sand, gravel and stone that may be common variety] must pay a processing fee per §3800.5(b). Information about processing fees is also found published in Instruction Memorandum no. 2006-106.

Use and occupancy of the public lands in association with the development of locatable mineral deposits must be reasonably incident and approved by the appropriate BLM Wyoming 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.

The BLM Wyoming coordinates its review of surface management notices and plans of operations, review of bonds and inspections of operations with the State of Wyoming, Department of Environmental Management Land Quality Division (WDEQ-LQD) under a memorandum of understanding. Operators are directed to the non-coal WDEQ guidelines which list what they need to file with the State and list certain standard operating practices. The amount of financial guarantee to cover the reclamation of exploration, mining and minerals processing is agreed upon by both the State and BLM. The bond instrument is held by the State and is payable to both the State and the Secretary of the Interior. When reclamation is to the satisfaction of both agencies the bond can be released. The types of bonds acceptable to the BLM are recapped in Instruction Memorandum WY-2010-001.

The BLM and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) entered into a memorandum of understanding regarding coordination of environmental documentation, where possible, of uranium processing operations in western states, including Wyoming and Nebraska, where the NRC retains primacy for the issuance of source material licenses.

Operations are subject to inspection at any time. Operators who fail to file a notice or plan of operations before conducting operations, fail to file to use or occupy claims or sites, fail to comply with the provisions of the notice or plan of operations on file with the Field Office, use or occupy and/or causes unnecessary or undue degradation are subject to being issued a noncompliance order, suspension order, revocation of the plan of operations or nullification of the notice. Operators adversely affected by a BLM decision can request a State Director Review or appeal to the Office of Hearings and Appeal.

Operators are encouraged to make early contact with the appropriate Field Office regarding plans to conduct locatable minerals operations. If the area of interest to you is on a National Forest, please contact the administering U.S. Forest Service Ranger District; a listing of such offices appear on page 19 of the Wyoming Public Lands Access guide.

The information above is general in nature and is not meant to address all circumstances.

Determination of Surface Rights under Public Law 84-167 (1955)  

Prior to 1955, claimants had certain surface rights associated with their mining claim. Public Law 84-167 required BLM to publish each township in each state where the United States wished to acquire complete surface management rights. Most townships were published between 1955 and 1968. The Master Title Plat for a particular township (and the Historical Index) will show if the township was published, give the date of publication, and list the claims (by claim name) that responded or were adjudicated surface rights under this Act. To maintain surface rights under this determination, the chain of title for each claim listed cannot be broken.