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The Department of the Interior's disposition of mining claims on public lands, largely unknown to lawyers outside the West, is a significant field of federal administrative activity and an important element in planning rational use of the public lands. While energy minerals found under public lands typically pass by lease and common varieties such as sand and gravel are subject to sale, most other mineral deposits on federal property are claimed for possible exploitation by the mining claim, or "location."

The location system arose out of miners' custom, at a time when the federal lands were vacant and no federal law governed acquisition of mining rights. During the turbulent "rushes" of the mid-nineteenth century, each mining district worked out and enforced, however colorfully and informally, its own rules on the important matters of acquiring and holding a mineral claim. These rules tended to embody similar features: physical marking of the land, filing the claim in a local record center, and continuing work on the claim to preserve its validity.


Administrative Law | Law


© 1974 by the Utah Law Review Society.