How to File a Gold Mining Claim

When you have found a site that seems like it’s worth mining or panning and sluicing, you have to follow the correct procedure to ensure that only you have full rights to the gold that you uncover.  File your gold claim as quickly as possible, even though you legally have 2-3 months to do so.  Here is how to file a gold mining claim. 

Disclaimer:  These are guidelines and will get you off to a good start.  However there are many additional details which is not uncommon for the government!  If you’re serious about this endeavor, you will find the Resource blog post very useful. 


Placer Claims

For traditional placer claims, in addition to proof of a discovery of a pay streak, each 10 acres must be shown to be mineral-in-character (there is a reasonable expectation of further economic mineral under these lands).

Where possible, placer claims are to be located by legal subdivision, such as the E1/2NE1/4NE1/4, Section 2, Township 10 South, Range 21 East, Mount Diablo Meridian. The maximum size of a placer claim you may locate is 20 acres.  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.

See the sample placer claim survey below, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Example of a Placer Survey 


Lode Claims

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.

Lode claims are usually located as parallelograms with the side lines parallel to the vein or lode.  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. The 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.

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 cover 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 the location of the tunnel site.

See the sample lode claim survey below, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Sample of a Lode Survey 


Claim Staking

Claim staking is the required procedure of marking the boundaries of the mining claim, typically with wooden posts or substantial piles of rocks.  Each state has slightly different requirements for claim staking. Once the claim is staked, the prospector documents the claim by filing required forms.  They are filed with the Clerk of the County in which the claim is located, and with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  Papers are likewise filed to document annual assessment work. 

See the sample below, courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.

Sample of Survey Markers 


Mill Sites

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 mining 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 of1ores; 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. You may hold as many mill sites as necessary for the support of the mining operation.


Tunnel Sites

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).


How do I stake a claim?

Federal law simply specifies that claim and site boundaries must be distinctly and clearly marked to be readily identifiable on the ground.  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; and complying with the requirements of 43 CFR Part 3830, 3832, and 3833.

The conspicuous place on the mining claim is usually the point of discovery (where you first found some gold). The discovery point must be tied to some well-known, permanent object.  Examples of permanent objects include an existing cadastral survey monument, a benchmark, a bridge, a fork of a stream, or a road intersection.  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. However, all mining claims and sites must have a location or discovery1monument. Be sure to check what the law requires in the state where the mining claims and sites are to be located.


Recording a Mining Claim or Site

Your claims and sites must be recorded with the proper BLM State Office within 90 days of the date of location and recorded with the proper county in accordance with their requirements. In Alaska, claims and sites can also be recorded with the BLM Northern Field Office located in Fairbanks.

State laws require filing the original location notice or certificate in the county recorder’s office, county clerk’s office, or borough office. The proper county or borough is the one in which your claim or site is located.

Each state has its own requirement for when a location notice must be filed and recorded. The maximum period is 90 days from the staking of your claim or site on the ground. However, some states require earlier filings, such as 60 or 30 days from the date of location.

Location notices must contain the following basic information:  the date of location on the ground; the names and addresses of the locator(s); the name of the claim or site; the type of claim or site; the acreage claimed; and a description of the parcel on the ground.  Local printing companies, office supply stores, stationery stores, and BLM offices are sources for obtaining state location notice and certificate forms.

As mentioned above, you must file a copy of the official record of notice or certificate of location with the BLM within 90 days after the date of location. You must record any amendments (changes) in claim boundaries and any changes in ownership with BLM. You are required to submit a map of the claim or site boundaries.

Other documents filed under state law must also accompany the copy of the official record filed with the BLM. Even if State law does not require recording, you must still file the proper documents with the BLM.  Federal recording regulations specify the information required.

These requirements may be obtained from BLM state or field offices.

There is a non-refundable service charge to record each new location due at the time of recording. These fees pay for the assessment year in which the mining claim or site is located.

FLPMA requires a finding of abandonment if you fail to record with the BLM, the county, or the borough within the prescribed 90-day period. You must use a separate location notice for each mining claim, mill, or tunnel site.



This is the list of fees for filing a mining claim and site document with the Bureau of Land Management.  A New Location Notice (per claim/site) costs a total of $189 that includes……

Processing Fee: $15

Location Fee (recording fee): $34

Initial Maintenance Fee (per claim/site): $140


Other possible fees include……

Notice of Intent to Locate Mining Claims on Stockraising Homestead Act Lands (each notice): $30

Amendments/Transfers of Ownership (per claim/site): $10

Notice of Intent to Hold (per claim/site): $10

Affidavit of Annual Assessment Work (per claim/site): $10

Annual Maintenance Fee, per claim/site (must be paid on or before September 1 each year): $140


6 Comments on How to File a Gold Mining Claim

    im trying to find a gold claim for sale in north carolina,or perhaps even stake a new claim, how do i know if its already claimed?and where would i find such a listing?

    Отложи проблему, и она сама исчезнет. смотри тут

  1. Phil Dekker
  2. can a lode claim be a triangle or under 20 acres..? My existing claims leave a triangle coroner of about 14 acres un -claimed. can I make a smaller lode claim there. In the triangle area?

  3. Lee
  4. My existing claims leave a triangle coroner of about 14 acres un -claimed.???

    Phil perhaps it might work like real estate.
    In a housing tract if there is a parcel to small to build on, and its connected to your property you can put claim to the property.
    I wish you luck.

  5. Jim Holman
  6. Does a mining claim in Ca. Have to be

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