You are entitled to stake claims on real estate if you have found minerals there. On federally-owned lands, in the following states, it is under the control of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM):
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.
Claims cannot be staked in national parks, reservations, or privately owned lands. The only kind of public lands on which persons may stake a mining claim are National Forest, BLM land, and Wilderness Study Areas. In Alaska, some National Parks are also open to mineral exploration. A US Forest Service map can assist in determining the ownership status of lands.
Steps to take to stake, file, own, and keep a mining claim.
1. Find minerals in a previously unclaimed area. Placer claims are typically 10 or 20 acres. The maximum size for lode claims is 1500 feet along the vein or zone of mineralization by 600 feet wide, with no sideline more than 300 feet from the middle of the vein.
2. Decide whether placer (origin of mineralization occurred at another point and was transported to its present location by hydraulic, gravitational, glacial or sedimentary action) or lode (origin of deposit is directly associated with igneous or volcanic action from depth in that general area).
3. Choose a name for the claim, and decide who will be the claimant.
4. Visit your local office of the US Department of the Interior, which controls the BLM www.blm.gov , USFS www.fs.fed.us , and USGS www.usgs.gov . Here, you can find maps and documents needed, along with assistance in filing them. You can also get direction for how to post your notice and mark your claim.
5. Plot location on a map using the National Mapping System, using a topographical map.
6. Physically locate the claim by erecting a location monument, discovery monument, or corner posts. Posts may be wooden (minimum of 3 ½ “ diameter and at least 3 feet above ground), metal, or capped PVC (can be smaller than wooden post, also 3 feet above ground), or a rock cairn at least 2’ high. If you’re unable to dig a hole, a pile of rocks may be used as a support base. The Notice of Location (obtained from the BLM) must be placed in or on the location monument in a container with a tightly sealed lid. Some states require that the location or discovery monument is placed on a specific part of the claim and that corner posts also be erected. Be sure to check the laws in your state. Even if your state does not require corner posts, they are a good idea as they will show other people the exact boundaries of your claim.
7. Within 30 days of posting your notice, record the date of staking, give directions to corner posts and the course of the claim’s centerline, county, and state. Make it neat and clean, and make several copies.
8. File a copy at the county assessor’s office and file another copy with the local BLM. Filing fees vary from state to state. The County Recorder’s Office will also require a small fee.
9. Retain your rights by performing at least $100 worth (or 20 hours) of work on the claim each year, and record the work in the offices of the county assessor and the BLM. “Work” can include excavation or enhancing infrastructure.
To research existing claims in your general area of interest, use a BLM Surface Mineral Management Map and choose specific areas, noting meridian, township, range, and section(s). Determine the availability of claims by checking with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This can be done in person, free of charge. The staff there can show you how to use the records, but they cannot do the research for you. You can also search online using their LR2000 search engine. See our page "How to Use the LR2000" for a quick tutorial. Claims that are inactive or closed are available to be reclaimed. The exact location of a particular claim can be found on the map in its case file.