5 Tips for Buying an Unpatented Mining Claim

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Tip #1: Check Surface Land Management Maps for Public Lands

The best way to start your land research is with a surface land ownership map. The BLM sells these maps in paper form, but you can also get them in digital format you can put into mapping programs such as Google Earth.

If you want to buy the paper maps for public lands go here: https://publiclands.org/pages/maps

Here is link to an online surface land ownership map: https://publicland.org/about/advocacy/links/public-lands-interactive-maps-information/

If you want to download the surface land ownership for Google Earth visit: https://usminedata.com/

The surface ownership of your claim will give you some important information about the land the claim is on. Most claims are on BLM or Forest Service land. Many types of land are not available for claim staking such as wilderness areas, national park service land, and military land. Your claim may overlap or be near some private land. There might also be other designations like an ACEC – Area of Critical Environmental Concern – which means you will have some additional permitting and reclamation responsibilities.

The ideal situation is just vanilla BLM land where the BLM also owns the mineral rights.

Arizona has one of the best online parcel maps that show both surface and sub-surface mineral rights. Here is the link: http://gis.azland.gov/webapps/parcel/?loc=-112.7156,34.1652,13&layers=3,3,7

Tip #2: Ask for the BLM Serial Number and Look it up Online

You can look up mining claims by serial number and location.

Here is the link to the BLM’s Mineral & Land Records System (MLRS) where you can look up the claims: https://reports.blm.gov/reports/MLRS

If the seller gives you the Serial Number scroll down to the ‘Mining Claim – Serial Number Index’ tab. If there is more than one claim as part of a group you can enter in the ‘lead serial number’ otherwise just enter in the actual serial number.

If the seller does not give you the serial number or you just want to research other claims in the area – get the Township, Range and Section and scroll down to the ‘Mining Claims – Geographical Index’ tab and click on it.

If you need a refresher on the meaning of ‘Township, Range and Section’ – this refers to the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) which is how land parcels are organized in most of the US. Here is a good introduction: http://nationalcad.blogspot.com/2015/03/plss-cadnsdi-plss-townships.html

Tip #3: Review Geological Reports, Assays, Production Records, and Geological Maps

If you claim is in a district with historical production then chances are someone has written a report on it. The USGS has lots of historical bulletins and publications. Find out the name of the mining district and research the district.

For instance, I staked a property a few years ago and found out that someone had actually written their Phd Thesis on the district. Since it was for the University of Utah I contacted the Utah Geological Survey and they sent me a pdf copy of the thesis. No charge.

Some underground mines will even have mine maps available sitting in the files of some dusty university library or at the state bureau of mines.

Here is the US Geological Survey (USGS) site where you can search for publications about your district: https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/

The state geological surveys or mining bureaus are also good places to do research. The Nevada Bureau of Mines (affiliated with the University of Nevada, Reno) has some great reports. They produce books for each country describing the geology and mineral resources. I got started in mining reading these little yellow books. Here is the link to the Nevada Bureau of Mines publications page: https://pubs.nbmg.unr.edu/nbmg-s/1844.htm

Tip #4: Ask for Expert Opinion – Or Ask Your Prospecting Friends

If you know a geologist or an experienced prospector – call them up and ask their opinion. If you are just getting started and don’t have a network of prospecting friends, geologists, and mining engineers – then you should meet some quick!

Spending $1,000 on a geologist can save you many multiples of that (and time) and they may have some better ideas on what type of property might be good for you.

Linkedin is a great place to meet professional geologists. Also, consider joining a prospecting club or the state geological association. I do a lot of work in Nevada and have joined the Geological Society of Nevada https://www.gsnv.org/. The GSN publishes and annual directory of members listing consulting geologists available for hire.

Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin here: www.linkedin.com/in/prospectorjeff

Tip #5: Don’t Overpay!

A good rule of thumb is not to pay over $25,000 for a single claim. Some mines might have proven reserves or an accessible vein that you have tested – then it might be okay to go higher. There might be some drill results you like or you have other good reasons for paying up. However, there are plenty of good properties in the $5,000 to $10,000 range that in many cases are just as good as the claims people are selling for $25,000 and up.

The surest way to lose money in the mining and prospecting business is to overpay for a claim.

Take a look at the mining claim market on Ebay and check out the prices. This will give you an idea of what to pay. If you don’t like the claim and assuming you didn’t overpay – you can always resell it on Ebay without too much trouble.

Mining properties often go through a whole series of owners before a discovery is made.

A quick note on land research: the above tips don’t really cover all the land research you can (or should) do. The more you are paying for a claim the more research you should do. This includes checks at the state and county level which I will cover in a separate post. If you are spending big money – have an attorney or a landman look at the claims documents.

Happy Prospecting! Feel free to call or email if I can answer any questions.