Creating a prospecting map

Example Prospecting Map

My process for creating a prospecting map has changed a little due to the BLM updating their tools on their website. This will provide further details to my previous blog post on the topic.

It is important to know how the Claim process works.  Generally when filing a Mining Claim the claimant has the rights to surface and lode-based minerals, so you can walk and picnic on the public land, but if you take any rocks you’re stealing from the claimant. The jurisdiction is typically the County Sheriff and there have been cases where people have done jail time for stealing off of a mining claim. It’s pretty simple, if the area is claimed, prospect somewhere else!

Here is some information on how claims work and what the claimant is responsible for to help you while prospecting, and to create a prospecting map to help you rockhound happily within the rules.  Basically the claimant must register their claim by providing paperwork to both the County and then the BLM. This is the information you need, the Certificate of Location (or Location Certificate) has the claim boundaries and how to tie their claim to the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) mapping standard that the BLM uses.

To create a prospecting map, I go through the following steps:

  1. Find all the claims in the general area I’m targeting. You will use BLM tools for this. This may be enough information for you to know generally what claims are in the area, but it doesn’t give you exact details, which isn’t useful for me as I don’t want to wander around the forest hoping to run into a claim post to orient myself. Been there, done that, its too much hiking and can easily end up putting you digging on a claim without knowing.
  2. Pull the Location Certificates for those claims. The BLM is the best place to get these; you often can email them with the claim numbers you are interested in (see step #1) or you can visit an office and they can help you with this. You can also get this through the county, but I have found this method only useful when the county has records stored online, which only a few do so far.
  3. Create a map in your favorite mapping software. Using the Location Certificates, you can then use the PLSS tie points and features of the mapping software to approximate the claim boundaries.

Step 1: Find all the claims in the general area I’m targeting

Tools that you will need for this step are two BLM applications:

Let’s look at Devils Head area as an example. Either navigate using the tools available on the site, or you can center on the Virgin Bath area and zoom in. The tool offers “layers” (see the icon in the lower right on the map) where you can turn off closed claims, etc. You will have to zoom in about 10-12 times to see the claimed areas in the pink hatched overlay.

The zoomed in view of the main Virgin Bath area of Devils Head locality. The pink areas are sections of the PLSS mapping system that have one or more claims, identified by the Serial# text. These are the numbers that if you contact the BLM you will need to provide for them to make copies of.

Step 2: Pull the Location Certificates for those claims

You can email the BLM office with your list of serial numbers and they will send you all the PDF attachments on the claim details you will need, note that they charge a reasonable fee. To save a couple bucks, you can let them know you are creating a prospecting map and they will send you only the pages you need.

At this point, you can skip ahead to step #3 once you receive the Location Certificates (COLs). However if you are able to research the COLs online (like you can here in Douglas County, nice!) you’ll need the claim name to search for the Location Certificate document.

To get the claim name (and other information that is publicly available), in a new window, open up the BLM Serial Number Report and fill in the State (in our example, CO for Colorado, and the Serial Number, in our case the lower right claim is CO101703240).

Add the required fields, State and Serial Number, and click OK.
You will see the claim type, name, claimant(s) and other information. You can click on the link to see detailed paperwork filing and other claim management information. Take note of the Claim Name which is what you will use on the Douglas County Open Records website.

Douglas County Official Records site: (note that you will need a login to view and/or download the claim Location Certificates).

On this website (other counties may differ) you will follow the following steps after logging in…

  1. Document Search
  2. Choose the document type of Location Certificate, leave the dates wide open (the site is reasonably fast)
  3. In the results field, filter using Grantee and type in the Claim Name (in our example Triple B)
  4. Once the item is found, click on it to bring it up
  5. Download and save on your computer
Type in the claim name in the “Grantee” filter

Step 3: Create your prospecting map

I will refine this part soon, but in the meantime refer to my older blog post for this step.