Mining Claims (Locatable Minerals)—Legal Instruments

The NPS Geologic Resources Division developed this article as part of a series to summarize laws, regulations, and policies that specifically apply to NPS minerals and geologic resources. The table below does not include laws of general application (e.g., Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, or National Historic Preservation Act). Also, the table does include the NPS Organic Act when it serves as the main authority for protection of a particular resource or when other, more specific laws are not available. Information is current as of December 2018. Contact the NPS Geologic Resources Division for detailed guidance.

Mining Claims (Locatable Minerals)

Resource-specific Laws


Mining in the Parks Act of 1976, 54 USC § 100731 et seq.

authorizes NPS to regulate all activities resulting from exercise of mineral rights, on patented and unpatented mining claims in all areas of the System, in order to preserve and manage those areas.

General Mining Law of 1872, 30 USC § 21 et seq.

allows US citizens to locate mining claims on Federal lands. Imposes administrative and economic validity requirements for “unpatented” claims (the right to extract Federally-owned locatable minerals). Imposes additional requirements for the processing of “patenting” claims (claimant owns surface and subsurface). Use of patented mining claims may be limited in Wild and Scenic Rivers and OLYM, GLBA, CORO, ORPI, and DEVA.

Surface Uses Resources Act of 1955, 30 USC § 612

restricts surface use of unpatented mining claims to mineral activities.

Resource-specific Regulations


36 CFR § 5.14

prohibits prospecting, mining, and the location of mining claims under the general mining laws in park areas except as authorized by law.

36 CFR Part 6

regulates solid waste disposal sites in park units.

36 CFR Part 9, Subpart A

requires the owners/operators of mining claims to demonstrate bona fide title to mining claim; submit a plan of operations to NPS describing where, when, and how; prepare/submit a reclamation plan; and submit a bond to cover reclamation and potential liability.

43 CFR Part 36

governs access to mining claims located in, or adjacent to, National Park System units in Alaska.

2006 Management Policies


Section 6.4.9

requires NPS to seek to remove or extinguish valid mining claims in wilderness through authorized processes, including purchasing valid rights. Where rights are left outstanding, NPS policy is to manage mineral-related activities in NPS wilderness in accordance with the regulations at 36 CFR Parts 6 and 9A.

Section 8.7.1

prohibits location of new mining claims in parks; requires validity examination prior to operations on unpatented claims; and confines operations to claim boundaries.

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Last updated: October 9, 2019