Patented vs. Unpatented Mining Claims

When considering the benefits of owning patented land vs. unpatented mining claims here are a few things to consider. Each has it’s advantage and disadvantage.


Patented Land

One of the largest benefits of owning a patented site is that you own the land outright and you can do what you want with the land. You can build a cabin on it and live there. Many mine sites are held with patents. Patented mining sites are usually expensive, but they also hold a high resale value. All lode and many placer claims that were patented were surveyed prior to patent. These surveys are known as mineral surveys and records of these surveys are currently kept on microfiche. The BLM has a full set of these mineral surveys that can be viewed and/or copied for a fee.

With a patented claim you don’t need to file a plan or notice with the federal government, but you still must comply with other applicable federal regulations as well as state and local mining requirements. One of the downsides of patented sites is you are liable for the mines: clean up, environmental impact, attractive nuisance and public access problems might be some things you have to deal with. There are also annual taxes on the land values, usually at least a few thousand dollars a year. Patented land is a limited commodity, at least for now, as the ability to patent new land has been put on hold since 1995, when the US Congress enacted a moratorium.

Unpatented Claims

A cabin in an unpatented mining claim

Unpatented Mining Claim

One downside to unpatented claims is that you can’t build a permanent structure on the claim without paying an expensive bond. All buildings on an unpatented claim must be mobile, or pre-existing. With an unpatented claim you have less liability for the public because it is still public land. With a plan of operations you can fence off your site to keep the public out as well. With an unpatented claim there are no taxes, just your annual assessment of $155 per year plus a small fee to the county BLM, typically between $5 to $20. With the rate the federal agencies are declaring Wilderness areas, mining claims might also become a limited commodity, at least mining claims that covers good, solid, producing mines might become a limited commodity.

Sharp Decline in Patented Claims after the 1800s

Under the 1872 Mining Law. Miners could either acquire full title to their claims (known as a mineral patent) or mine unpatented claims. Thousands of patents were issued annually between 1872 and 1900, but after the turn of the century there was a steep decline in the number of patents issued.

The main reason for the decline in new patented land, according to David Gerard,  was that in the late 1800s the western mining frontier was notorious for disputes and litigation, especially around the richest mines. It was costly to defend and enforcing unpatented claim rights, and a lot easier to resolve disputes regarding patented land. However, as mentioned above, patent land came with a price. That price included: the initial cost of drilling and assaying core samples to prove that the land was rich enough to patent, the administrative and legal costs of the patent paperwork, and the yearly taxes.

After the 1900s the wild West settled down a bit. claim disputes became less common, the costs of enforcing rights to unpatented claims decreased. Suddenly the benefits of patent title weren’t so obvious and patent applications fell sharply.

We Sell both Unpatented claims and patented land

We regularly update our inventory of mining claims. The patented land we are usually selling for others. Most of our unpatented claims we go out and find ourselves. We move quite a few claims through our doors, so if you don’t see one that catches your eye, keep checking back, or just sign-up for our email newsletter and receive weekly updates on our newest mining claims.

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