How to Write a Notice of Intent and Plan of Operations

Paperwork for the Casual Use Miner and Beyond

Bell-Hill MineThe casual use miner typically only needs to worry about the annual Maintenance Fees, required before September 1st of each year. For those who want to do more than casual use mining you will want to file Notice of Intent (NOI) or a Plan of Operations (POO). We will cover both in greater detail below. Even if you plan on operating under Casual Use, a notice of intent is almost always a good idea.

What is Casual Use Mining?

Casual use is defined as activities ordinarily resulting in no or negligible disturbance of the public lands or resources.
For example:

1. Casual use generally includes the collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It may include use of small portable suction dredges. It also generally includes the use of metal detectors, gold spears, or other battery operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals, and hand and battery operated drywashers. Operators may use motorized vehicles for casual use activities provided the use is consistent with the regulations governing such use, off-road vehicle use designations contained in land use plans, and the terms of temporary closures ordered by either the BLM or Forest Service.

2. Casual use does not include use of mechanized earth-moving equipment, truck-mounted drilling equipment, motorized vehicles in areas when designated as closed to “off-road vehicles”, chemicals or explosives.

If you plan on engaging in a level of activity above casual use on your claim you need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) or Plan of Operations (POO) with either the BLM Field Office or the Forest Service Office. A Notice of Operation is required for exploration activities covering 5 acres or less. A Plan of Operation is required where activities involve the surface disturbance of more than 5 acres.

Notice of Intent

Pink Lady MineA notice of intent just lets the BLM or FS know you plan to prospect on your claim. With a NOI you can be more generic than in a POO in regards to the tools you plan on using and the activities you plan on doing on your site. For a sample NOI click here. The NOI needs to be received by the BLM field office or the FS District, that manages the land where your claim is located, at least 15 days before you plan to start your operations. The BLM and FS then have 15 days to notify you and request any changes or let you know whether a POO is required instead of a NOI. A POO might be required it the BLM or FS determines that your operation will likely cause significant disturbance (disturb more than 5 acres) of surface resources.

With a Notice of Intent no approval from the BLM or FS is needed. If you don’t hear back from them after 15 days you can assume they have accepted your NOI.

What to Include in your Notice of Intent

The basic guidelines for the Notice of Intent are as follows: provide a map with enough information so the BLM or FS can easily identify the area involved, include a basic description of the nature of the proposed operation, provide a map with details of the route you will take to access your mine and the vehicle that you plan to take to your claim.

You don’t need to file a Notice of Intent if:

1. You have already submitted a Plan of Operations.
2. If your planned operations don’t involve the use of mechanized earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers or backhoes and will not involve the cutting of trees.
3. Your operations will be limited to the use of vehicles on existing public roads or roads used and maintained for BLM or National Forest System purposes.
4. Prospecting and sampling will not cause significant surface disturbance and will not involve removal of more than a reasonable amount of mineral deposit for analysis and study which generally might include searching for and occasionally removing small mineral samples or specimens, gold panning, metal detecting, non-motorized hand sluicing, using battery operated dry washers, and collecting of mineral specimens using hand tools.

Plan of Operations

Scheelite Queen MineFor operations involving more than 5 acres, a detailed plan of operation must be filed with the appropriate BLM field office. Bonding is required to ensure proper reclamation. You need to submit a Plan of Operations if your mining operation will likely cause a “significant disturbance of surface resources”, meaning you will disturb over 5 acres. You also need to file a new POO if your mining plans change and these new plans of yours are not covered by a currently approved POO.

With your POO, be sure to craft it to reflect your intentions, and don’t leave anything out. You want your notice to be approved with minimal issues or cost, but you also don’t want a Ranger to ticket you for violating your POO. These are extremely important documents and can sink or float your claim. You need to know what your rights are, what you can and can’t do and how far you can push. Some companies, such as ours, Gold Rush Expeditions, can offer assistance with your Plan of Operations for a fee. If you have questions, utilize this service. It will be invaluable down the road. A sample Plan of Operations can be found here.

You will be required to reclaim any surface disturbing activity you cause. Even if you let the claim lapse, the BLM or FS won’t just let you off the hook. The BLM and Forest Service require a reclamation bond or other financial security prior to approving your plan of operations. You may also be required to obtain the proper State permits prior to Notice or Plan level activities.

You don’t need to file a Plan of Operations if:

The underground work you plan to do will not cause significant surface resource disturbance.

Laws for Exploration and Mining on BLM and FS Managed Public Land

Exploration and mining on BLM managed land is regulated by 43 CFR 3715 and 3809. Exploration and mining on FS managed land is regulated by 36 CFR 228 Part A. These regulations are to prevent unnecessary destruction of the land.


This site includes information that is intended to help the public find legal assistance and learn about the law and legal system as it relates to mining. This site and any information provided, however, does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the counsel and services that may be required from an attorney.

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