Mining Law

Law offices of J. Craig Demetras has a thriving minerals practice that includes representation and other legal services in the areas of administrative and regulatory matters; mergers and acquisitions; claim staking and location; leasing, joint ventures, and like-kind exchanges of mineral properties; mineral patenting and permits; and royalty dispute resolution.

Our firm can provide assistance in all aspects of the mining application and permitting process including, but not limited to:

  •  Mining Leases
  •  Acquisition and Disposition of Mining Claims
  •  Land, Water, Mineral, and Royalty Agreements and Disputes
  •  Obtain and Defend State and Federal Permits
  •  MSHA Compliance and Citation Contesting

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Legal questions regarding mining law?

The attorneys at the Law Offices of J. Craig Demetras are experienced with handling your questions and providing the necessary foundation for your mining operation. Here are some of the most frequent questions our office initially receives from our clients.

1. What is a valid mining claim? A valid mining claim is one that’s been subject to a formal process to determine if there’s been a discovery of a valuable mineral deposit and if the claim meets all other requirements of the law. See also Freeman v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, 37 F. Supp. 3d 313, 319 (D.D.C. 2014).

2. What property rights do mining claims have? Mining law can be very complex as it relates to many other areas of the law, such as property law. A patented mining claim is considered private property. However, an owner of an unpatented mining claim on public land is still considered real property. The discovery of a valuable mineral deposit within the limits of a mining claim that are located on public lands and are in compliance with both State and Federal statutes validates an unpatented mining claim. In this case, the locator of the claim acquires an exclusive possessory interest in the mineral deposits within the claim. This possessory interest is property in the fullest sense of that term; and may be sold, transferred, mortgaged, and inherited without infringing any right or title of the United States . . . so long as the locator complies with the provisions of the mining laws.  Wilbur v. U.S. ex rel. Krushnic, 50 S. Ct. 103, 104 (1930) disapproved of by Hickel v. Oil Shale Corp., 91 S. Ct. 196 (1970). The owner of an unpatented claim is entitled to mine, remove and sell all valuable mineral deposits within his claim boundaries provided he follows the regulations for Surface Management under 43 CFR 3809, and is entitled to such surface rights necessary for mining operations.

3. If I begin to operate as a mine, will I need a bond for my mining operation? Simple answer, it depends. The Bureau of Land Management classifies mining operations dependent upon levels of surface-disturbing activity: casual use, notice level, and plan of operation level. A bond will be necessary if the level of activity of your operation is anything other than casual use, as well as by the location and activity level of your operation.

Casual use: No notification to the BLM is required but you must reclaim any casual use disturbance that you create. Casual use generally includes:

  •  the collection of geo-chemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools
  •  hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing

Casual use does not include:

  •  use of mechanized earthmoving equipment
  •  truck mounted drilling equipment
  •  motorized vehicles in areas when designated as closed to “off road vehicles”
  •  chemicals, or explosives
  •  It also does not include “occupancy” as defined in Sec. 3715.0-5 of this title or operations in areas where the cumulative effects of the activities result in more than negligible disturbance.

Notice Level: Generally notice level activity applies to exploration. Exploration means creating surface disturbance greater than casual use that includes sampling, drilling, or developing surface or underground workings to evaluate the type, extent, quantity, or quality of mineral values present. Exploration does not include activities where material is extracted for commercial use or sale.

4. How is mining regulated? The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended, is still in effect and regulates mining on public land. Currently, ores of metallic deposits are available for entry and purchase under the Congress enacted law. The Budget Acts by Congress, portions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, and the Surface Resources Act of 1955 all affect the General Mining Law of 1872. Additionally, the Federal regulations for unpatented mining claims/sites on Public Land may be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) under Title 43 “Public Lands,” Section 3802, 3809, and 3830.

5. In addition to the Federal regulations, are there State and local regulations for mining activities? The short answer is yes; however, the extent of local regulation depends on the county. Nevada requires its own regulations for prospecting and mining operations on Federal land. Our office can assist you with the Nevada and local regulations and permitting that are necessary to operate a mine in Nevada.

Mining Law Questions?

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