Mining Claim FAQ's (frequently asked questions)

What's the difference between an unpatented gold mining property and a patented one? Mining claims are in either of two broad categories: unpatented mineral claims and patented mineral claims. Under the Mining Law of 1872 (30 U.S.C. 21 et seq.), an unpatented claim gives a claimant a property right interest to the minerals in the claim and the right to use as much of the surface and its resources as necessary to extract the minerals. The Mining Law of 1872 also establishes a process by which a claimant may bring a claim to patent. When patented, actual ownership of the minerals and usually the surface resources pass from the United States to the claimant.

Can I convert my unpatented property to patented property?   Since 1995, Congress has enacted one-year moratoriums on the issuance of patents, whereby new mining patents generally will not be issued, but grand-fathered applications will be processed.

What good is an unpatented gold mining property to me? What can I do on it?  The owner may choose to mine the property or not. If an owner chooses to engage in the actual exploration, development, and production of his mining property, he must notify the BLM and file the proper paperwork.  If an owner chooses  to mine on his property only occasionally, that's OK too.  However; if one chooses to actively mine his claim, he is  allowed to live on the property full time, and may build temporary (and in some cases...permanent) structures. And yes, a prudent man is allowed to recreate on his property in his spare time.  In either case, maintaining ownership of your mining claim property requires the filing of certain documents and fees to be paid annually to the BLM.

What legalities / paperwork are involved with buying an unpatented gold mine property? Each state and county may have their own requirements concerning the transfer of ownership of an unpatented mining claim. Typically, just as in any real estate transaction, all that it needed for the transfer is a quit claim deed filed with the county and BLM.

Is the land mine? The United States Supreme Court case of Wilbur v. U.S. ex rel. Krushnic, 280 US 306 (1930). The Supreme Court said; When the location of a mining claim is perfected under the law, it has the effect of a grant by the United States of the right of present and exclusive possession. The claim is property in the fullest sense of that term; and may be sold, transferred, mortgaged, and inherited without infringing any right or title of the United States. The right of the owner is taxable by the state; and is "real
property". The owner is not required to purchase the claim or secure patent
from the United States; but so long as he complies with the provisions of the
mining laws, his possessor's right, for all practical purposes of ownership,
is as good as though secured by patent. In essence, you own the  mineral rights and may use as much of the surface as  reasonably necessary for mining your property. 

Can I live on it?  Mining claims are not "building lots" for residential occupancy.  In some cases a miner can secure permission to construct necessary temporary structures, however...all buildings, equipment, fences, signs, roads, any man made changes on the mining claim, must be reasonably incident to mining and included in a Notice or Plan on file with the Bureau of Land Management. If the building or equipment is NOT used for mining or milling purposes it must be removed and stored off the mining claim. Structures must meet all local and state building codes. If the structure is large enough for a person to occupy, even if not intended for occupancy, it must meet all building codes that apply. Any temporary structure, even a travel trailer, needs a permit from BLM to be located on Public Lands beyond the 14-day limit. Many people stay in travel trailers or camp trailers while they are working their claim(s).  All inhabited buildings must have power, water, and sanitation. If residential occupancy or a watchman is necessary, the watchman must occupy the property 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until unnecessary. If the site is left without a watchman at any time, the watchman is not necessary.

Can I build on it? See above.

Would it be possible to put electric and sewage on the property? See above.
How much are taxes? BLM requires an annual maintenance fee of $125 to satisfy assessment requirements. There also exists a small miners waiver...if one owns less than 10 mining claims. In essence, actual labor can be performed as well to qualify as assessment work.

Do I own the property or just the mining rights or both? The locators of all mining locations made on any mineral vein, lode, or ledge, situated on the public domain, their heirs and assigns, where no adverse claim existed on the 10th day of May 1872 so long as they comply with the laws of the United States, and with State, territorial, and local regulations not in conflict with the laws of the United States governing their possessory title, shall have the exclusive right of possession and enjoyment of all the surface
included within the lines of their locations. You own only the mineral rights until a patent is secured from the government. Presently, there is a moratorium on issuance of patents however this is subject to change in the future.

I've never mined for gold (or anything else for that matter) before in my life!  Where do I begin? There are a multitude of Gold Mining Websites where one can learn how to get started as well as thousands of books written on the subject.  Careful... should you catch it, the fever may never leave ya!

How long have the laws for owning mining claims been around anyway? The General Mining Law of 1872 is one of the major statutes that direct the federal government's land management policy. The law grants free access to individuals and corporations to prospect for minerals in public domain lands, and allows them, upon making a discovery, to stake a claim on that deposit... Currently, mineral claimants must pay an annual maintenance fee of $100 per claim to hold the claim. Once a claimed mineral deposit is determined to be economically recoverable, and at least $500 of development work has been performed, the claim holder may file a patent application for title to both the surface and mineral rights. If approved, the patent can be obtained for $2.50 or $5.00 per acre depending on the type of claim. Presently, because of the moratorium on issuing Patents, no applications are being accepted. Again, this is subject to change in the future.

Sometimes forest roads are gated and locked up.  Can I be locked out of my claim? The owner of an unpatented mining claim cannot be denied access to his property by federal  law. If a locked gate is preventing you from accessing your claim, the Forest Service (or appropriate agency) must provide you with a key.

What if I find others camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, etc. on my property? Others may recreate on an unpatented mining claim fishing, swimming,hiking... however; you have the right to post mining claim signs warning the public of possible hazards and dangerous conditions pertaining to your mining procedures. You may also post "No Tresspassing of Mineral Rights". In most instances, the public will respect your rights and signs help to convey the claimants rights.

What if I find silver on my gold mine or diamonds on my silver mine?  Does whatever I find on my property belong to
me? You own all the mineral rights to your mining claim and are not required to pay a royalty to anyone for extracting such minerals.
More on Patented Mining Claims: 
A patented mining claim is one for which the Federal Government has passed its title to the claimant, making it private land. A person may mine and remove minerals from a mining claim without a mineral patent. However. a mineral patent gives the owner exclusive title to the locatable minerals. In most cases, it also gives the owner title to the surface and other resources. Requirements for filing mineral patent applications may be found in 43 CFR 3860 and BLM State Offices. Mineral patents can be issued for lode and placer claims and mill sites, but not for tunnel sites. Patenting requires the mining claimant to demonstrate the existence of a valuable mineral deposit that satisfies the prudent man and marketability tests (discovery). In addition, the applicant needs to:1.    Have the claim surveyed (if it is a lode claim, a claim described by metes and bounds, or a claim situation on unsurveyed land) by a mineral surveyor selected from a roster maintained by the BLM State Office;

2.       Post a "notice of intent to patent" on the claim or site and publish it in a local newspaper for a 60-day period;

3.       Pay the BLM a nonrefundable $250 application fee (and an additional $50 filing fee for each additional claim/site in the application);

4.    Show the BLM evidence of a right of title to the claim or site;
5.       Show the BLM proof of discovery of a valuable mineral deposit; and 6.       Show the BLM proof that not less than $500 worth of development work or improvements have been made to benefit each claim.

A Federal mineral examiner will examine the application and the claim(s) to verify that a discovery of a valuable mineral has been made. If all the requirements of the mining laws and regulations have been satisfied, the law allows the applicant to purchase the claim(s) or site(s) at the following rates: lode claims at $5 per acre, placer claims at $2.50 per acre, custom mill sites and mill sites associated with lode claims at $5 per acre, and mill sites associated with placer claims at $2.50 per acre.

If the applicant is successful on all points, a mineral patent will issue for the land applied for. 

NOTE: Since October 1, 1994, Congress has imposed a budget moratorium on BLM acceptance of any new mineral patent applications.  Until the moratorium is lifted, no new applications may be accepted by the BLM.

Disclaimer:  All information on this page is provided for general informational purposes only.  No warrantee is made or implied by for reliability or accurateness of this information.  Please consult a qualified mining attorney on all important mining law matters.

Copyright 2003