Land claim

Last updated
Claim at the South Yuba River Mining claim, South Yuba River (cropped).jpg
Claim at the South Yuba River

A land claim is a legal declaration of desired control over areas of property, including bodies of water. The phrase is usually only used with respect to disputed or unresolved land claims. Some types of land claims include aboriginal land claims, Antarctic land claims, and post-colonial land claims.


Land claims is sometimes used as a term when referring to disputed territories like Western Sahara or to refer to the claims of displaced persons.

In the colonial times of the United States American men could claim a piece of land for themselves and the claim has different level of merit according to the de facto conditions:

  1. claim without any action on the ground
  2. claim with (movable) property of the claimant on the ground
  3. claim with the claimant visiting the land
  4. claim with claimant living on the land.

Today, only small areas of unclaimed land remain, yet large plots of land with little economical value (e.g., in Alaska) can still be bought for very low prices. Also, in certain parts of the world, land can still be obtained by making productive use of it.

Mining claim (United States)

A mining claim is the claim of the right to extract minerals from a tract of public land. In the United States, the practice began with the California gold rush of 1849. In the absence of effective government, the miners in each new mining camp made up their own rules, and chose to essentially adopt Mexican mining law then in effect in California. The Mexican law gave the right to mine to the first one to discover the mineral deposit and begin mining it. The area that could be claimed by one person was limited to that which could be mined by a single individual or a small group.

The US system of mining claims is an application of the legal theory of prior appropriation , by which public property is granted to the first one to put it to beneficial use. Other applications of appropriation theory were the Homestead Act, which granted public land to farmers, and water rights in the west.

The California miners spread the concept of mining claims to other mining districts all over the western United States. The US Congress legalized the practice in 1866, and amended it in the Mining Act of 1872. All land in the public domain, that is, federal land whose use has not been restricted by the government to some specific purpose, was subject to being claimed. The mining law has been changed numerous times, but still retains some features similar to those settled on by the California 49ers.

The concept was also used in other countries, for example during the Australian gold rushes which occurred at a similar time starting from the 1850s, and included similar groups of people including miners that migrated from the American gold rushes. The Oriental Claims in Victoria are one example of this.

Staking a claim

Corner post of the claim of the Blue Ribbon Mine in Alaska Mining claim corner Blue Ribbon Mine Alaska.jpg
Corner post of the claim of the Blue Ribbon Mine in Alaska

Staking a claim involves first the discovery of a valuable mineral in quantities that a "prudent man" (the Prudent Man Rule) would invest time and expenses to recover. Next, marking the claim boundaries, typically with wooden posts or capped steel posts, which must be four feet tall, or stone cairns, which must be three feet tall. Finally, filing a claim with both the land management agency (USFS or BLM), and the local county registrar.

There are four main types of mining claims:

  1. Placer (minerals free of the local bedrock, and deposited in benches or streams)
  2. Lode (minerals in place in the mother rock),
  3. Tunnel (a location for a proposed tunnel which claims all veins discovered during the driving of it)
  4. Millsite (a maximum five acre site for processing ore)

A mining claim always starts out as an unpatented claim. The owner of an unpatented claim must continue mining or exploration activities on an unpatented claim, or he may pay a fee to the land management agency by September 1 of each year, or it is considered abandoned and becomes null. Activities on unpatented claims must be restricted to those necessary to mining. A patented claim is one for which the federal government has issued a patent (deed). To obtain a patent, the owner of a mining claim must prove to the federal government that the claim contains locatable minerals that can be extracted at a profit. A patented claim can be used for any purpose desired by the owner, just like any other real estate. However, Congress has ceased funding for the patenting process, so at this time a claim cannot be patented.[ citation needed ]

Claim jumping

A dispute when one party (a "claim jumper") attempts to seize the land on which another party has already made claim is known as "claim jumping". [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Gold rush new discovery of gold that brings an onrush of miners seeking their fortune

A gold rush is a new discovery of gold—sometimes accompanied by other precious metals and rare-earth minerals—that brings an onrush of miners seeking their fortune. Major gold rushes took place in the 19th century in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, South Africa and the United States, while smaller gold rushes took place elsewhere.

General Mining Act of 1872

The General Mining Act of 1872 is a United States federal law that authorizes and governs prospecting and mining for economic minerals, such as gold, platinum, and silver, on federal public lands. This law, approved on May 10, 1872, codified the informal system of acquiring and protecting mining claims on public land, formed by prospectors in California and Nevada from the late 1840s through the 1860s, such as during the California Gold Rush. All citizens of the United States of America 18 years or older have the right under the 1872 mining law to locate a lode or placer (gravel) mining claim on federal lands open to mineral entry. These claims may be located once a discovery of a locatable mineral is made. Locatable minerals include but are not limited to platinum, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, uranium and tungsten.

Prior appropriation water rights is the legal doctrine that the first person to take a quantity of water from a water source for "beneficial use" has the right to continue to use that quantity of water for that purpose.

Burro Schmidt Tunnel

The historic Burro Schmidt Tunnel is located in the El Paso Mountains of the northern Mojave Desert, in eastern Kern County, southern California.

A land patent is an exclusive land grant made by a sovereign entity with respect to a particular tract of land. To make such a grant "patent", a sovereign must document the land grant, securely sign and seal the document (patent), and openly publish the documents for the public to see. An official land patent is the highest evidence of right, title, and interest to a defined area. It is usually granted by a central, federal, or state government to an individual or to a private company.

California Department of Water Resources agency in California

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR), is part of the California Natural Resources Agency. The Department of Water Resources is responsible for the State of California's management and regulation of water usage. The department was created in 1956 by Governor Goodwin Knight following severe flooding across Northern California in 1955, combining the Division of Water Resources of the Department of Public Works with the State Engineer's Office, the Water Project Authority, and the State Water Resources Board. It has its headquarters in Sacramento.

Mining law branch of law relating to the legal requirements affecting minerals and mining

Mining law is the branch of law relating to the legal requirements affecting minerals and mining. Mining law covers several basic topics, including the ownership of the mineral resource and who can work them. Mining is also affected by various regulations regarding the health and safety of miners, as well as the environmental impact of mining.

Gold placer claim

In the United States, a placer claim grants to the discoverer of valuable minerals contained in loose material such as sand or gravel the right to mine on public land. Other countries such as Canada, Mexico, and Australia grant similar rights. In the United States, the valuable mineral in a placer claim is almost always gold, although other nations mine placer deposits of platinum, tin, and diamonds. Another type of mining claim is a lode claim.

Mineral rights are property rights to exploit an area for the minerals it harbors. Mineral rights can be separate from property ownership. Mineral rights can refer to sedentary minerals that do not move below the Earth's surface or fluid minerals such as oil or natural gas. There are three major types of mineral property; unified estate, severed or split estate, and fractional ownership of minerals.

<i>Case of Mines</i>

The Case of Mines or R v Earl of Northumberland was decided in 1568.

The California Land Act of 1851, enacted following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the admission of California as a state in 1850, established a three-member Public Land Commission to determine the validity of prior Spanish and Mexican land grants. It required landowners who claimed title under the Mexican government to file their claim with a commission within two years. Contrary to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which guaranteed full protection of all property rights for Mexican citizens, it placed the burden on landholders to prove their title.

Australian mining law governs the exploration and extraction of minerals and petroleum in Australia. It differs substantially from the mining laws of other common law countries, the most important differences arising from the policy decision that the Crown should own all minerals.

Recreational gold mining

Recreational gold mining and prospecting has become a popular outdoor recreation in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Wales, in Canada and in the United States especially. Recreational mining is often small-scale placer mining but has been challenged for environmental reasons. The disruption of old gold placer deposits risks the reintroduction of post gold rush pollution, including mercury in old mining deposits and mine tailings.

<i>Schillinger v. United States</i> United States Supreme Court case

Schillinger v. United States, 155 U.S. 163 (1894), is a decision of the United States Supreme Court, holding that a suit for patent infringement cannot be entertained against the United States, because patent infringement is a tort and the United States has not waived sovereign immunity for intentional torts.

Mining in the United States has been active since the beginning of colonial times, but became a major industry in the 19th century with a number of new mineral discoveries causing a series of mining rushes. In 2015, the value of coal, metals, and industrial minerals mined in the United States was US $109.6 billion. 158,000 workers were directly employed by the mining industry.

Rancho Las Mariposas was a 44,387-acre (179.63 km2) Mexican land grant in Alta California, located in present-day Mariposa County, California.

Water law in the United States refers to the Water resources law laws regulating water as a resource in the United States. Beyond issues common to all jurisdictions attempting to regulate water's uses, water law in the United States must contend with:

New World Mining District

The New World Mining District is an area of mineralization that sits within Gallatin National Forest to the northeast of Cooke City and Yellowstone National Park, in Park County, Montana, United States. The district hosts extensive deposits of gold, silver and copper in zones of carbonate replacement. These deposits are the result of Eocene hydrothermal alteration of Cambrian carbonates related to the Absaroka volcanic field. Alteration and mineralization occur primarily within carbonate clasts hosted in a volcanic breccia pipe and in carbonate rocks that lie adjacent to that breccia.

Rosemont Copper Place in Arizona, United States

Rosemont Copper is the name of a proposed new and large open pit copper mine project pursued by the Canadian mining corporation Hudbay Minerals. It has undergone a permitting review process under the direction of the United States Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has been delayed by legal judgements and suspension of its operating permit by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The project site is located within the Santa Rita Mountains and Coronado National Forest, in Pima County of southern Arizona.

Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Mfg. Co., 243 U.S. 502 (1917), is United States Supreme Court decision that is notable as an early example of the patent misuse doctrine. It held that, because a patent grant is limited to the invention described in the claims of the patent, the patent law does not empower the patent owner, by notices attached to the patented article, to extend the scope of the patent monopoly by restricting the use of the patented article to materials necessary for their operation but forming no part of the patented invention, or to place downstream restrictions on the articles making them subject to conditions as to use. The decision overruled The Button-Fastener Case, and Henry v. A.B. Dick Co., which had held such restrictive notices effective and enforceable.


  1. "Definition". Retrieved Jan 21, 2019.