Mining Claim Forms

I written this post to briefly explain the procedures for filing the paperwork for a new placer mining claim and the renewal of an existing placer mining claim.  I include our experiences and what we learned. It is intended as reference material for me. I should note that I live in Arizona and this information pertains to Arizona and may be incorrect for other states. This information specifically applies to the 2009 and 2010 assessment years.


Mining claim fees are due on or before September 1 each year.

The initial cost per mining claim (load or placer) is $140 + $35 location fee.

The annual cost is $140 per mining claim (load or placer).

The process of staking a new mining claim

In the 2010 assessment year, my friend Josh and I went out looking for gold in known gold-bearing areas. We sampled areas for placer (alluvial) gold using our recirculating mini-highbanker. When we found a place that was acceptable we first looked around for other claim markers to be sure someone else had not already claimed it. Its a good idea to look for private property signs and no trespassing signs too. I created a waypoint on our gps receiver and then we headed back home. Later while sitting in front of my computer, I downloaded the GPS waypoints into Google Earth and used the PLSS overlay to figure out where the claim is located.

I should note that GPS is very unreliable for accuracy. When you are saving waypoints, you should take into consideration that the coordinates could be a few hundred feet off. This is why I like to use Google Earth. It shows a map of the area, the PLSS grid and the waypoints data all together as layered information so I can judge with better accuracy using the PLSS grid which Township/Range/Section I was at.

I searched LR2000 and the County Recorder’s web site to see if that particular area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and also checked if it is open to be claimed.

**** UPDATE ****
Geocommunicator will no longer be available for mining claim research. It has been permanently discontinued by BLM. Use LR2000 instead.

The land appeared to be available for claiming so a few days later we went out to stake our claim.

By staking a claim we have legal rights to the minerals in the ground for 90 days starting from that day. We usually tap a 4 foot metal rebar into the ground and slide a white 5 foot capped pvc pipe over it. You can find the supplies from Home Depot. Make sure all the markers are at least 4 foot above the ground. Also put your information, date and corner coordinates at a center marker so if someone finds your claim they can identify the claim. You need 4 corner markers and and 2 center markers.

* It can take several hours to walk around and tap all your markers into the ground so you should dedicate a cool day for that and always bring someone else along for safety reasons. Don’t forget to bring plenty of drinking water.

Next thing to do is fill out the paperwork and write a check for the total amount, then mail it. ($189 per claim)

* The Bureau of Land Management will accept two forms of payment – bank check or credit card.

For the new placer mining claim, I had to fill out a Location Notice (MCF102), Mining Claim Map (MCF100a) and Maintenance Fee Form (MCF112).

Here is a real example of the paperwork we submitted for a mining claim

Gold Trail (PDF format)


You can also download this KML file so you can visualize the mining claim in Google Earth.

Google Earth KML (right-click save as, then open it with Google Earth)


It took about two weeks to get a new claim approved. When that happens, the BLM will assign an AMC serial number to the mining claim and stamp all the original paperwork and mail it back to you.

* The paperwork process can take longer sometimes.

After we receive the paperwork, I immediately mailed all the originals to the County Recorder office. There is a fee to record your documents and I sent along a bank check.

* The County Recorders office will accept two forms of payment – cash or bank check. It costs $14 per 5 page document set and $1 each page thereafter. You must include a cover letter describing what is to be recorded and  a return mailing address.  Note: the cover letter counts as a page.

**** UPDATE ****
Yavapai County Recorder has new fee change as of January 1, 2012 – CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

The County Recorder then makes a copy of your documents and gives you a record number for each set. It is then mailed back to you.

The County recorder must receive the paperwork before December 30. Fail to do so will invalidate your mining claim.
(Here is a copy of 43 US Code 1744 to prove that)

That is all you need to do.

The process of renewing an existing mining claim

In the middle of the 2009 assessment year we purchased a placer mining claim from somebody.

It was now our responsibility to renew the mining claim before September 1, 2009.

We spent a few months prospecting for gold on that property and also helped to keep it clean from trash other folks left behind or trash that blew onto it.

A small miner is someone who owns 10 or less mining claims (load or placer) nationwide. If you want to have more than 10 mining claims nationwide, then you are no longer considered a small miner.

The Bureau of Land Management may allow small miners to pay less for their mining claims if the small miner has spent at least $100 worth of work and improvements to the mining claim itself. It is an incentive for you to keep the land looking beautiful for others to enjoy. The normal annual price is $140 per mining claim, but if you qualify and are approved, you can pay $10 per mining claim instead of the full amount. If you feel that you may qualify, you need to send in Forms MFC108 (notarized) and Forms 3830-2 along with your renewal paperwork.

The renewal paperwork is just one form – MFC112.

Mail form MFC112 along with a bank check to the BLM.

Once they approve and mail the paperwork back, you need to to send the updated paperwork to the County recorder by December 30. Fail to do so will invalidate your mining claim. (Here is a copy of 43 US Code 1744 to prove that)

That is all you need to do.

Other Notes

– The Bureau of Land Management requires your paperwork to be mailed in by September 1 every year.

– You can file for a load and placer claim on the same location, but the mining claim forms and costs are still separate.

– If you fail to renew your mining claim (like we did recently), then you will receive a notice of abandonment from the BLM and you have to start the paperwork process all over again from scratch by submitting a new Location Notice, Mining Claim Map and Maintenance Fee Form + $189 – just as I explained above.

– If you want to claim some federal public land, but not do any work on it, then you need to file for Notice of Intention to Hold Mining Claims/Sites (MCF110) instead of MFC112.

– Only one person can claim 20 acres of land. Each quadrant of a section encompasses four 40 acre sections. So if you wanted to claim a 40 acre section of land, you need another person to be the co-claimant. Now both people can claim a whole 40 acre section. If both claimants decided to claim more than one 40 acre sections, you will need to give each claim a different name. The claim name does not need to be unique because every claim has a unique serial number that identifies it. Multiple claim names could be like “Lucky Strike 1, Lucky Strike 2”, etc..

– If you want to stake a claim in a national forest, then read the Forest Service Manual Chapter 2810 – MINING CLAIMS. If you intend on disturbing a significant amount of surface resources, you will need to send the District Ranger a Notice of Intention to Operate, then wait about 15 days for a response. The District Ranger will decide if approval of a Plan of Operations is needed. For more details, see the Code of Federal Regulations – Title 36 part 228.4 (November 2010 copy).

Related Online Resources

Microsoft Word Viewer


This article was last updated on February 3rd, 2012

Searching for unclaimed land

NOTICE: This article is deprecated – BLM discontinued Geo Communicator

If you are researching areas in Geo Communicator for land that you may be able to claim mineral rights, then you will need to know the following fact before you begin.

Below is a picture of a section of the PLSS grid in Geo Communicator.

Our 40 acre placer mining claim is located in a particular section like this.

Its important to know that the BLM does not store in its database the exact 1/4 of 1/4 section of our 40 acre mining claim.

They only record it as 1/4 section in which I marked blue in the picture below. Thus, you or others might be misled into thinking that there are 4 x 40 acres of claimed land. This is a fundamental flaw in the way BLM chose to record mining claims in their computer system. We discussed this with the director of our local BLM office and found that they offer no way to fix this visually.

This is why you see load or placer mining claims on the map in so many areas. Part of the section may be unclaimed even though it does not look so.

Our actual 40 acre mining claim is marked with a red X in the image below.

So make this a lesson to you. What you see on Geo Communicator that appears to be claimed, may not in fact be claimed.

The way to know for sure is to search for recorded documents at the County Recorder Office and see if there are any Location Notices in relation to a particular area. Look at the Location Notice Map to see which part of a section is claimed. You will eventually figure out what areas of a section are claimed or not claimed. Each claim must have recorded either a Notice of Intention to Hold Mining Claims/Sites (MCF110) or Maintenance Fee Form (MCF112).

For a mining claim to remain valid, it must be staked and recorded by December 30 every year or else it is up for grabs by anyone. If staked, but not recorded, then it is considered abandoned and you have legal right to claim it.

For mining claims in Yavapai County, you can freely search and download any recorded documents on their web site. Use the Advanced search option to lookup a specific Section, Township and Range.