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How to Stake a Mining Claim

The General Mining Act of 1872, as amended, grants all U.S. citizens ages 18 and older the right to locate a mining claim on U.S. federal lands open to mineral entry. Corporations organized under state law can locate and hold mining claims. Lands not open to mineral entry are exempt from the Mining Act and claims can not be filed. Lands not open to mineral entry include, but are not limited to: wilderness areas, conservation areas, national parks and monuments, wildlife reserves, state lands, military and Indian reservations, and lands with private mineral conveyances. Some claims may be grandfathered in these withdrawal areas in cases where the claim predated the newer land designation. Activities on a mining claim are limited to prospecting, mining, or processing operations and uses reasonably incident thereto. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management oversees mining claims although other government agencies also administer mining activities on their lands.

There are three classes of public lands available for mineral activities

  • Locatable Minerals are whatever is recognized as a valuable mineral by standard authorities, whether metallic or other substance, when found on public land open to mineral entry in quality and quantity sufficient to render a claim valuable on account of the mineral content, under the Mining Law of 1872. Specifically excluded from location are the leasable minerals, common varieties, and salable minerals.
  • Leasable Minerals The passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, as amended from time to time, places the following minerals under the leasing law: oil, gas, coal, oil shale, sodium, potassium, phosphate, native asphalt, solid or semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, oil impregnated rock or sand, and sulfur in Louisiana and New Mexico.
  • Salable Minerals The Materials Act of 1947, as amended, removes petrified wood, common varieties of sand, stone, gravel, pumice, pumicite, cinders, and some clay from location and leasing. These materials may be acquired by purchase only.

There are three types of claims

  • Lode claims cover veins or lode deposits.
  • Placer claims cover deposits not subjected to lode claims, including deposits of mineral-bearing sand and gravel containing free gold or other economic minerals.
  • Mill sites must be located on land not containing any known mineral resources.

Steps in locating a mining claim

  • Locate the claim (discovery)
  • Staking the claim
  • File the mining claim at the county courthouse and state BLM office
  • Contact appropriate federal and state agencies to inquire about regulations for exploration, obtaining exploration and mining permits
  • Obtain all required permits (in New Mexico contact the New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division )
  • Begin exploration and ultimately mining operations

For more information see