Where to Prospect for Gold and Stake a Claim in the United States
While gold mine claims are sold on eBay and elsewhere on the Internet (do a keyword search; you’ll be surprised at what is available), this post is for those who want the adventure of locating their own lode or placer gold claim. It’s also MUCH less expensive than buying one online!
There are 19 states where you may locate mining claims or sites. These states are Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the surface of public lands in these states and the Forest Service manages the surface of National Forest System lands. The BLM is responsible for the subsurface minerals on both its public lands and National Forest System lands.
You may prospect and locate mining claims and sites on lands open to mineral entry. Claims may not be located in areas closed to mineral entry. Subject to valid existing rights, these areas are withdrawn from further location of mining claims or sites.
Areas withdrawn from mineral entry include National Parks, National Monuments, Native American reservations, most reclamation projects, military reservations, scientific testing areas, most wildlife protection areas (such as Federal wildlife refuges), and lands withdrawn from mineral entry for other reasons.
Lands withdrawn for power development are subject to mining location and entry only under certain conditions. Mining claims may not be located on lands that have been designated by Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, designated as a wild portion of a wild and scenic river, or withdrawn by Congress for study as a wild and scenic river.
There is usually a 1/4-mile buffer zone withdrawn from the location of mining claims or sites from either side of a river while the river is being studied for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System are withdrawn to mining claim and site location at the time of designation by Congress. Mining activities are permitted only on those mining claims that can show proof of a discovery either by December 31, 1983, or on the date of designation as wilderness by Congress.
Before you can locate a claim, you must determine if the lands are open to mineral location. Mining claims must be located on lands where the U.S. has ownership of the mineral rights. No claims can be staked on lands transferred out of Federal ownership where the minerals were not reserved to the U.S.
The BLM State Offices and Field Offices have appropriate land and mineral status maps and records for you to make this determination.
On lands open to location, you may prospect and properly locate claims and sites. You cannot locate on lands that are already claimed. You must review the BLM and County Recorder’s office records to determine if an active mining claim/site already is located on the land.
For a specific tract of land, check the official land records at the BLM state or field office responsible for administering the land area. Rather than looking randomly through the records for lands open to location, it is better to restrict your search to a specific area of interest. Topographic maps of the area (published by the U.S. Geological Survey) provide the legal description (meridian, township, range, section) of such lands.
Visit the local BLM field office or the BLM state office and check land status plats (i.e. Master Title Plats or MTPs), land survey notes and maps, mineral survey notes and maps, and the Controlled Document Index (CDI). The CDI is a microfilm copy of all grants, deeds, patents, rights-of-way, and other official actions that occurred on the lands under the administration of that BLM State Office. It is organized by legal land description only.
BLM publishes a series of multicolored surface and mineral management maps (except for Alaska). These maps depict the ownership pattern of Federal lands. They may be purchased at most BLM offices. They are also available online. To visit a state’s section on the BLM website, go to http://www.blm.gov, type in the state name, and click “Go.”
IMPORTANT: Ultimately, it is your responsibility to determine if there are prior existing mining claims on the ground.