Mining claims are available on federal lands in 19 different states and are open to any citizen who qualifies as an adult in his state of residence. While most areas in these states are subject to mining claims, some areas, such as national parks and monuments, are not available. To stake a claim to mine on federal lands, follow the appropriate steps, fill out the right papers and pay the necessary fees to the Bureau of Land Management.
Select an area that has available minerals, which include both metallic minerals such as lead, silver and gold, and nonmetallic minerals, such as mica and asbestos. The deposits will either be in lode form, meaning that there is a vein of the mineral at the site, or a placer form, which includes any minerals at a site that are not contained in a lode.
Check with the local BLM office to see if there is a prior claim on the location. If there is, the claim should be marked according to the specific requirements in your state, but it is possible it is not well-marked, yet is still a valid claim. If there is already a claim, you’ll need to find another location.
Stake the claim by marking the boundaries, according to the laws in the state where the claim is located. Each state has its own rules for staking claims, so check with the BLM office that handles the area where your claim is located before proceeding.
Identify your claim by drawing a map of the lode or placer location. Lodes are limited in size to 1500 feet long and 600 feet wide, allowing for 300 feet on either side of the lode’s centerline. Placer claims are typically identified by existing lot lines and are usually 20 acres in size, though they can be combined to form claims up to 160 acres as long as specific laws are followed. The exception to this is Alaska, which limits a single placer claim area to a maximum of 40 acres.
Fill out the BLM paperwork specifying the legal description for the claim location, your name and personal information and the type of claim. File this with the state BLM office within the allotted time period, generally from 30 to 90 days after staking a claim. Pay the required fees and post a claim notice in a prominent place at the claim site. In most states you must also file your claim with the county clerk’s office for the county where the claim is located.
- Save yourself time and energy by not looking for claims in areas likely to be closed to mining, including Indian reservations, wildlife refuges, military bases or reservations and areas involved in reclamation projects. You may only stake a mining claim on federal lands in North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Arkansas, California, New Mexico, South Dakota, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming, so don’t bother looking for minerals on federal lands in other states.
- Failure to file on your claim within the required time period will cause the claim to be considered as abandoned, opening it up to anyone who wishes to file on it and take it from you. You can also lose your rights if you don’t pay the claim fee each year when it is due for renewal.