Introduction to Filing a Gold Mine or Gold Panning Claim
If you have “gold fever” you chose the right time, because gold prices keep going up and up, and there still is plenty of gold in “them thar hills.” Whether you want to actually work a gold mine or prefer to pan and sluice for gold in a stream, if you’re serious and want to turn it into a business, you’re going to want to stake a claim (or buy one from someone else).
Over the next few days, I’m going to show you how to locate a gold mining claim or gold prospecting claim, how to file a claim and protect it, and what you can and can’t do with it. All it takes is a little knowledge and effort. I am going to provide you with the knowledge and links to the resources you need to file a gold claim. Are you ready?
First it’s important to become familiar with some basic terms: mining claim; locatable minerals; lode claim; placer claim; unpatented claim; patented claim; Prudent Man Rule; Marketability Test
What is a mining claim?
A mining claim is the right to explore for and extract “locatable minerals” from a tract of federal public land in the United States.
The General Mining Act of 1872 as amended (30 U.S.C. §§ 22-54 and §§ 611-615) is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining of these minerals. All U.S. citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a “lode” or “placer” mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry.
A mining claim does not give you ownership of the land unless it is a “patented.” It also doesn’t automatically mean you can build on that land. I’ll discuss that in the post How to File a Gold Mining Claim or Gold Panning Claim.
While the property itself isn’t transferred into your name, claims to the minerals on that land may be staked, bought and sold, leased, willed, or inherited like any other property, as long as the annual fees are paid on time.
You can file gold mining claims on certain types of federal property, which will be discussed in more detail in the post Locating a Gold Claim. While you can do prospecting on private property (with permission from the owner), you cannot file a claim there.
A final note about gold mining claims is that you can claim up to 20 acres. However each 10 acres must be shown to be mineral-in-character (there is a reasonable expectation of further economic mineral under these lands). So you can’t just say you want 20 acres. You need to prove why.
Knowing the laws, rules, and regulations is very important. However I’m going to make it very easy for you if you read all four posts in this four-part series.
What are locatable minerals?
As was explained earlier, a mining claim is the right to explore for and extract “locatable minerals” from a tract of federal public land in the United States. Locatable minerals (also known as “stakeable minerals”) include both metallic minerals (gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, etc.) and nonmetallic minerals (fluorspar, mica, certain limestones and gypsum, tantalum, heavy minerals in placer form, and gemstones).
Then there are minerals that are considered “NON-locatable.” Since July 23, 1955, common varieties of sand, gravel, stone, pumice, pumicite, and cinders were removed from the General Mining Law and placed under the Materials Act of 1947, as amended.
Today, minerals that are subject to lease include oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, potash, sodium, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, phosphate, and coal. In Louisiana and New Mexico, sulphur is also subject to lease. These deposits must be leased from the Department of Interior when found on public land.
What is a lode claim?
A lode claim, also known in California as a quartz claim, is a claim over a hardrock deposit.
Lode deposits are mineral deposits found in rock that commonly must be blasted and then milled to remove the valuable minerals. 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 veins bearing gold or other metallic mineral deposits such as copper-bearing granites.
What is a placer claim?
A placer claim is a claim over gold-bearing sand or gravel, often along a stream or river.
Placer claims cover all those deposits not subject to lode claims. Originally, placer claims included only deposits of mineral-bearing sand and gravel containing free gold or other detrital minerals. By congressional acts and judicial interpretations, many nonmetallic bedded or layered deposits, such as gypsum and highcalcium limestone, are located as placer claims now as well.
Placer deposits have accumulated through weathering and then transportation and concentration of the minerals in stream sediments.
Basically the difference between a lode claim and a placer claim is that lode claims are staked on hardrock deposits and placer claims are staked on unconsolidated deposits.
What is an unpatented mining claim?
All mining claims are initially unpatented claims, which give the right only for those activities necessary to exploration and mining, and last only as long as the claim is worked every year.
What is a patented mining claim?
If a proven economic mineral deposit is developed on an unpatented claim, provisions of federal mining laws permit owners of unpatented mining claims to patent (to obtain title to) the claim. The patented claim is then treated like any other private land and is subject to local property taxes. That’s the GOOD news.
The BAD news is that because of a Congress-imposed moratorium, the federal government has not accepted any new applications for mining claim patents since October 1, 1994.
What is the Prudent Man Rule?
The Prudent Man Rule was first defined in Castle v Womble, 19 LD 455 (1894), where the Secretary of the Interior held that: “Where minerals have been found and the evidence is of such a character that a person of ordinary prudence would be justified in the further expenditure of his labor and means, with a reasonable prospect of success, in developing a valuable mine, the requirements of the statute have been met.”
What is the Marketability Test?
The Marketability Test was first defined by the Secretary of the Interior in Solicitor’s Opinion, 54 ID 294 (1933): “…a mineral locator or applicant, to justify his possession must show by reason of accessibility, bona fides in development, proximity to market, existence of present demand, and other factors, the deposit is of such value that it can be mined, removed, and disposed of at a profit.”