How To File For a Gold Mining Claim

Sometimes striking a rich pocket of gold can turn into a nightmare if you don't know how to protect your location. It's far too common for newcomers to become instantly mesmerized at the sight of gold and fail, and instead of spending the necessary time and energy to file for a gold mining claim, they continue mining. While this may result in more gold upfront, you run the risk of losing your location to another prospector, which is your most valuable tool. The bottom line is that you need to file for a mining claim if you intend on doing any serious prospecting there in the future, because someone else may claim legal mining rights for it if you don't.

Gold ClaimBefore we start, it's important to note that just because you own a piece of property doesn't mean you have exclusive, legal rights to the gold and other valuable minerals located in the ground. Depending on where you live and what the governing laws are, you may still have to file for a placer claim to protect your investment. In 1872, mining laws were passed in the U.S. which allowed people to stake claims on private land as long as they could provide evidence that valuable minerals were on the land. If you own a piece of land in the U.S. and think there might be gold on it, you should immediately file for a claim to protect your investment.

Patented vs Unpatented Claims

Here in the U.S., gold mining claims fall into either one of two different categories -- patented or unpatented. Although they both entitle the individual to exclusive mining rights, there are a couple of unique differences between them. An unpatented claim is a typical mining claim that only gives the individual rights to explore and mine on a given piece of land. In short, you're only allowed to mine and perform mining related activities with a patented claim.

A patented claim (AKA deed), on the other hand, is one that's issued solely by the government and gives the individual rights for both mining and non-mining activities on the land. After obtaining a patented claim, you can then use the land like you would for any other piece of property. The problem is that very few patented claims have been issued since the mid 90s; therefore, it's unlikely you're going to get a new one issued for any piece of land you find gold on. With that said, you can purchase previous patented claims in the same manner you would a property deed.

Gold Claim PaperworkFederal vs State Claims

Something else that you'll have to decide on is whether you need a federal or state mining claim. Basically, state claims are issued to individuals who wish to prospect on state-owned land. For instance, you want to pan or prospect for gold in one of California's national parks, you'll need to apply for a state claim for the simple fact that it's owned by the state of California.

Just because a piece of land is owned by the state doesn't mean you can necessarily stake a claim on it, though. Certain national parks, monuments and protected land may have restrictions on it regarding valuable mineral prospecting.

As you may have guessed by now, federal claims are used to prospect for valuable minerals on federal land. If you come across a river pocket or stream that's giving you loads of gold on federal owned land, you can file for a federal claim to protect the future investment of your time, money and resources. All federal claims are handled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which govern and regulate the mining restrictions.

Placer vs Lode Claims

Before you go filing for a gold mining claim, you'll need to decide on a placer or lode claim. If you plan on panning and prospecting for gold or other valuable on the surface, then a placer claim is the type you need. These are generally cheaper and easier to obtain because they don't allow you to dig into the earth. Lode claims, however, grant you legal rights to the extraction of valuable minerals underneath earth's surface.

Important Things To Remember When Filing For a Gold Mining Claim:

  • If you want to stake a claim on a piece of land, you'll need to fist check to see if one is already on it. Just because you haven't seen anyone prospecting there doesn't mean a claim hasn't been staked on it.
  • Must physically "stake" your claim by setting up a monument that's 3" in diameter and sticking 3" out of the ground in the northeastern corner of your land.
  • Claim size for federal land is limited to 20 total acres.
  • Placer and lode claims do not give you legal rights to the ground, sand or rocks in the area.
  • If you don't want to buy a new claim, you can find others willing to lease theirs out for a set period of time.
  • After physically staking your claim, you typically have between 30-60 days to file the necessary paperwork with the local clerk's office.
  • Gold claims typically prove to be a smart investment, as you can sell, lease or trade them in the future.

Paperwork For a Gold Mining Claim

Once you've chosen a location and decided exactly what type of claim you need (lode or placer, federal or state, etc.), you'll need to contact the county clerk's office covering that specific piece of land. Either visit them in person or give them a call to express your desire to file for a mining claim. They will be able to guide you on what paperwork is required, where to file, how much the fees are and how much time you have to complete the requirements.

After finishing the paper necessary for the county clerk's office, you'll have to send a copy over to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This is done simply for reference purposes, but it's still necessary for gold mining claims.