Mining Laws

Although I am not an attorney, I have some comments based on my experience with mining claims.  Most pertain to unpatented claims.  This section is intended as commentary, not advice.

See Mining Law Links for various State and Federal Mining Statutes.

MINING CLAIMS AND THE BLM

Claims recorded and paid-up at the BLM are designated as “Active”. However, the BLM will accept most Location Certificates or Location Notices for recording as long as the required BLM filing fees are paid, and will only later check for compliance with certain federal rules.  Furthermore, the BLM generally will not adjudicate the validity of a claim or intervene in disputes between adverse claimants.

Claims shown by the BLM as active should always be suspect, as they may be subject to defects not apparent, or not adjudicated, at the BLM.

“Validity” is a term of art in the mining context. A mining attorney usually will only describe a claim as valid if a qualifying discovery of mineral has been found on the claim, whereas the layman and the BLM might use the term to describe whether a claim location was done according to state and federal laws and regulations.

For example, the BLM might accept a defective claim as active, even though the claimant placed the discovery monument on lands that were not open to location.  In that case the claim would never have been valid at all, since no valid mineral discovery can be made on lands not open to location. The BLM would later send notice to the claimant that part of their claim was partially defective, due to the overlap onto lands not open to location, but they might not inform the claimant that the entire claim was invalid from the start.

Although rare, the BLM will sometimes contest the mineral validity of a mining claim to resolve land issues such as multiple use conflicts, conflicts with surface entries, trespass, condemnation, public projects, and improper association placer claims.

In summary, an unpatented claim rarely has a valid mineral discovery.  Claims listed as active by the BLM are those that the BLM has accepted for recordation and where the required payments to the BLM have been made.  If a claim has been located pursuant to all state and federal statutes and regulations, the claimant is said to have a “possessory interest” in the claim.  However the claim is probably not “Valid” in a mining context.  A claimant or owner may sell, lease, or explore their claim pursuant to the possessory interest, but only a qualifying mineral discovery will validate the claim.

MINING CLAIMS AND THE STATE

Each state has its own mining claim statutes and regulations. A claimant or locator must abide by those state rules in addition to federal statutes and regulations. A claim may be invalid on the state level even though BLM lists the claim as active.   For example, a locator who records a claim at the county recorder after the statutory state deadline might also record the claim at the BLM before the statutory federal deadline.  Often the BLM will accept the recording and treat the claim as active, even though the claim is invalid on the state level.  In this case the claimant has no rights whatsoever, and his claim is invalid.  Fatal defects at one agency are often not apparent at the other, and most importantly are generally not adjudicated by either agency.

States vary as to their statutes and regulations, for example, deadlines for recording, claim monument requirements, whether an annual filing is required, whether a map is required with the claim recording, and whether a location notice or location certificate must be notarized prior to recording.  State mining claim statutes can be readily found online.

County recorders will often accept defective location documents.  Some will also refer a claimant to federal statutes and regulations, even though the federal requirements  differ from the state requirements. Anyone who stakes a mining claim must review and abide by both the state and federal requirements. County and BLM personnel often give out erroneous information, so trust, but verify.

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