PSICC Locatable Mineral Resources

The Federal Government's policy for minerals resource management is expressed in the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970, "foster and encourage private enterprise in the development of economically sound and stable industries, and in the orderly and economic development of domestic resources to help assure satisfaction of industrial, security, and environmental needs." Within this context, the national forests and grasslands have an essential role in contributing to an adequate and stable supply of mineral and energy resources while continuing to sustain the land's productivity for other uses and its capability to support biodiversity goals.

What is a locatable mineral?

A locatable mineral is defined as a valuable metallic or nonmetallic mineral found on public land open to exploration and development under the Mining Law of 1872.  Locatable minerals are most metallic, nonmetallic, and rare earth elements.  Metallic minerals include precious metals such as gold and silver and base minerals such as zinc, molybdenum, bentonite, nickel, cinnabar, lead, tin, and copper.  Some of the nonmetallic minerals are borax, feldspar, fluorspar, and gypsum.  One of the rare earth elements mined as a locatable mineral is uranium.

What laws and regulations must I follow to mine on the National Forest?

  • Mining Law of 1872 (17 Stat. 91; 30 U.S.C. 22, 28, 28b)
  • Organic Administration Act of 1897 (30 Stat. 11, as amended; 16 U.S.C. 473-475, 477-482, 551)
  • Mining Claims Rights Restoration Act of 1955 (69 Stat. 681; 30 U.S.C. 621)
  • Multiple Use Mining Act of 1955 (69 Stat. 368, as amended; 30 U.S.C. 611-615) (Also called Public Law 167, Common Varieties Act, or Multiple Surface Resources Act).
  • 36 CFR 228, Subpart A

How are public lands managed for mining and other uses? 

Under the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1955, the Forest Service is required to manage its lands for multiple uses. This act includes management for the withdrawal of minerals.  Though the Forest Service cannot prohibit the discovery or development of valuable locatable mineral deposits; it can regulate surface disturbance caused by these operations. The Mining Law of 1872 encourages exploration and development of minerals on public land.  The keeper of the minerals estate is the BLM.  The agency which manages the land governs the surface activities.

Are there guidelines for prospecting on National Forest?

“Recreational Mining” is not a defined Forest Service term, but a popular term in usage by the public. 

Operations which are popularly considered to be “recreational mining” are activities conducted by the “weekend” visitor who is pursuing a hobby, such as panning or sluicing using hand tools, to give just two examples.  The Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulations provide general guidelines to follow for the protection of the resources.

Click here for the BLM's 3809 regulations - 43 CFR 3809
Click here for the FS 228 regulations - 36 CFR 228, subpart A
Click here for the Prospecting General Guidelines
Click here for a Handout on Mining on the National Forest
Click here for a Handout on Rockhounding, Fossil Hunting and Gold Panning

Do I need a mining claim?

The Forest Service does not require a miner or prospector to file a mining claim to engage in non-surface disturbing activities, i.e. “recreational mining” on National Forest System Lands.  Filing, or “locating” a mining claim establishes an exclusive right to access minerals on a claim.  Keep in mind that many mineral deposits have already been “claimed” by other prospectors.  Removing any minerals or panning on someone else’s claim without permission is considered trespassing.  It is your responsibility to check with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or county for any active mining claims in the area in which you plan to carry out your “recreational mining” activities.  See the BLM links below to assist with any further questions you may have about filing mining claims.

The Forest Service does not administer mining claims.  Mining claims can only be filed with the BLM Colorado State Office and the local county recorder's office.  By law, mining claims and sites must be recorded with the proper BLM State Office within 90 days of the date of location and recorded with the proper county recorder within 60 days of date of location. 

BLM Handout - Mining Claims and Sites on Federal Land 

BLM Mining Claim Packet can be found here

Information on how to "Locate a Mining Claim"

Information on how to legally stake your claim:  State of Colorado, Circular No. 3

**THINKING OF BUYING A MINING CLAIM ON THE INTERNET???  Be sure to read THIS handout, before you do.  It pays to know your rights as a claimant.**

What are the different types of mining claims?

Lode claims - claims on veins or lodes of quartz or other rock types bearing gold, silver, cinnabar, lead, tin, copper, or other valuable deposits.

Placer claims - for activities on unconsolidated materials and minerals such as placer gold, tin, cinnabar, titanium, and platinum.  Placer deposits are superficial deposits washed out of a vein or lode.

Can I patent my mining claim, under the Mining Law?

The Mining Law of 1872, as amended, provides that all valuable mineral deposits on Federal land are open to exploration and purchase.  Miners must locate a valuable deposit and place a claim on it to acquire mineral rights.  The claim may be patented* and the title obtained to the mineral and surface rights if the mine is producing.  The Mining Law encourages mining companies to initiate exploration and development.

  • *As of October 1, 1994, Congress imposed a moratorium on spending appropriated funds for the acceptance or processing of mineral patent applications that had not yet received First Half Final Certificate (FHFC) or were not in Washington, D.C. for Secretarial review of FHFC on or before September 30, 1994. Until the moratorium is lifted, the BLM will not accept any new applications.

Do I need a reclamation bond?

Per 36 CFR 228.13, "any operator required to file a plan of operations shall, when required by the authorized officer, furnish a bond conditioned upon compliance with 228.8(g), prior to approval of such plan of operations." Reclamation bonds must be furnished by the operator to ensure site reclamation following termination of mining. 

What does the reclamation bond ensure?

The reclamation bond must ensure the following:

  • The estimated costs as if reclamation work was contracted with a third party to reclaim the operations according to the reclamation plan, including construction and maintenance costs for any treatment facilities necessary to meet Federal and State environmental standards.
  • The cost of equipment rental, operation, and labor appropriate for the geographic area. 

Who do I file my reclamation bond with?

Reclamation bonds are issued in the name of the State of Colorado and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, and are administered by the State of Colorado (DRMS).  The Forest Service is consulted on the sufficiency of the bond amount.  The Forest Service retains authority to require a separate bond if deemed necessary.

What other agencies do I need approval from in order to mine on National Forest?

As an operator, you are required to follow all Federal, State, and local laws, rules and regulations.  The State of Colorado, Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety (DRMS) permits mining activities on all lands within the State of Colorado.  


The Forest Service and DRMS work together to minimize paperwork and duplication for our operators; however, both agencies operate under separate laws, regulations, and policies.  A copy of the most recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DRMS can be found here.  It outlines each agency's roles and responsibilities in regulating mining activities.


A link to the DRMS website can be found here.

A link to DRMS forms can be found here, as well as in the section below.

A link to DRMS' Mined Land Reclamation Act (MLRA) rules and regulations can be found here.


What forms are available?

Forest Service Forms:

Plan of Operations (OPM Form 2800-5)

Notice of Intent Forms:

Notice of Intent Form - Leadville Ranger District
Notice of Intent Form - Pikes Peak Ranger District
Notice of Intent Form - Salida Ranger District
Notice of Intent Form - South Park Ranger District
Notice of Intent Form - South Platte Ranger District

State of Colorado Forms:

State of Colorado, Hard Rock Limited Impact Operation 110-1 Reclamation Permit (5 acres or less of disturbance)
State of Colorado, Hard Rock Limited Impact Operations 110-2 Reclamation Permit (10 acres or less of disturbance)
State of Colorado, Notice of Intent to Conduct Prospecting Operations (1600 sq. feet or less of disturbance)
State of Colorado, Is It Mining?? Questionnaire