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What Are Mining Claims?

By Amy Rodriguez
Updated May 17, 2024
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Mining claims are parcels of land that have the possibility of producing gold if the owner cultivates the ground and any flowing water streams. In the past, prospectors physically staked out these mining claims as part of settling the western United States. Currently, mining claims must be purchased like any other land property; the parcels are normally divided into three different categories according to size and features: the millsite, the lode, and the placer.

Valid, recognized mining claims must be developed by the claimant; digging or blasting for gold must be partially completed to verify that the mineral exists on the land parcel. As a result of the land development, the ownership deed for the mine is claimed by the prospector and paid for accordingly. At this point, the claim can be developed more, sold, or remain untouched since the ownership is valid and documented. Many gold claims are still available for purchase, such as in some of the United States' mountain regions, or even as far north as Alaska.

Millsite mining claims are one of the smallest land parcels available at approximately 5 acres (20,000 m2). This claim type is unique since it is mainly used for processing ore into gold and other lucrative minerals; the miner must have a steady supply of ore to have a successful millsite. Some miners work with other claim owners to bring more ore into the millsite claim for an agreed upon fee.

Lode mining claims are larger than the millsite types, measuring about 10 acres (40,500 m2). These claims are normally small since they should have a large concentrated gold deposit deep in the ground; miners can only dig within the boundaries of this area. A main benefit to this claim type is the ability to dig deep. Hypothetically, this claim can be dug as deep as the center of the Earth to find the gold deposits; the property boundaries do not apply to the ground's depth.

Placer mining claims are the typical land parcels seen in old historical pictures from the California Gold Rush era in the mid-1800s. This land parcel normally covers a large property area of approximately 120 acres (486,000 m2). The main benefit of this claim is its incorporation of a flowing water body, such as a river or stream; miners can pan for gold as it is sloughed off of surrounding rocks by the moving water's force. This vast land parcel often allows the miner to work on different areas of the water body to find the most gold flakes.

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