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Thoughts on Jasper/agate "claims".

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Talusman
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« on: February 04, 2016, 10:47:08 am »

Hi,

I'm out east - so an outsider looking in when it comes to claims/permits. Basically all collecting out east in on private land. I also gather it's a hot topic for those who collect out West. However, as I learn more about rocks, this is a natural extension of my education :)

What I've been able to gather reading online is that:

1.) Jasper/agate is generally not viewed as "locatable" meaning there isn't legal protection of claims for such.
2.) You can collect enough for personal use with hand tools without a permit
3.) you need a permit to collect with machinery for commercial use, and need to reclaim the land afterward
4.) A permit doesn't give you exclusive rights to said Jasper/agate in that area

I know there are many opinions as to whether the current rules are right/wrong and I'm not voicing any opinion on the matter. Just trying to learn what the current rules are.

Thanks!

-Jeremy
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jakesrocks
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 10:53:47 am »

You might want to look into mining laws in the Oregon / Idaho / Nevada areas. There are plenty of claims over the range of the Owyhee type picture jaspers.

Come to think of it, There's at least 1 active claim in Custer Co. South Dakota in the TeePee Canyon agate collecting area.
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Talusman
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2016, 11:00:37 am »

Thanks Don,

I've seen many Jaspers and agates that come from posted claims. However, it's looking at the laws that Gets me confused. The BLM has this to say about claims for agate/Jasper on public lands:

"Material such as agate, chert, jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, cinders and other volcanic products are not considered locatable under the 1872 Mining Law.  Most commonly collected rocks and minerals are not subject to mining claim location even though people occasionally stake claims for these minerals anyway.  The mere fact that some stones may be cut and polished does not give them a distinct or special value to make them locatable."

Is there a process to document a material has a "distinct or special value" from a legal perspective to make a claim valid?

Any other references I should check out to learn more about mining laws applicable to Jasper/agate?

Thanks again!

-Jeremy
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Justin
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 11:18:51 am »

Thanks for asking the question Jeremy. I am curious myself.
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rocks2dust
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2016, 11:20:07 am »

Allowable collecting depends on where you are collecting, how you are collecting and what you are collecting. Some areas which have been hit hard have more restrictive amounts (number of pounds or size of bucket) for personal use than others. Some jurisdictions put the amount collected per person, some per vehicle. Some wilderness, study and other protected areas still allow surface collecting (no digging or disturbing vegetation or natural features), while others do not. Some permits are free, most charge a fee (depending on the amount to be dug).

There has been quite a bit of trashing of public lands by both commercial and hobby collectors over the decades. That has led to many areas being put off-limits, which is less expensive on limited budgets to patrol, restore and protect. Responsible collectors refill the holes they've dug (a real danger to cattle, wildlife and horses who also use those open spaces), don't undercut trees and other vegetation, pack out their trash and waste and leave the area as nice as when they arrived - seem to be fewer of those with each passing year, though.

It is always best to contact the local office of whichever agency oversees the area in which you collect: State, County, USFS, BLM and in some cases city. Their websites can be useful, but dropping by in person for a few minutes can be very productive - get the addresses online before you pack up for your trip. They'll go down the rules for collecting in that area and often also be able to show you (or sell or give you) a map showing boundaries. In short, there are different rules and regs depending on the area to which you will be traveling.
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rocks2dust
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2016, 11:32:56 am »

Is there a process to document a material has a "distinct or special value" from a legal perspective to make a claim valid?
It is all about establishing value. There has to be both a market and enough material within the claim to justify both a mining operation and reclamation. Some lower-value materials are scattered over such a large area that no single claim could possibly cover the costs on that patch of claimed ground. Higher value material (metals, opal or a particularly unique agate or jasper) might qualify, but you'd have to establish that there was both a real market value and that the claim contains enough material to justify mining. There are laws regulating claims that have fine-tuned the 1872 law, so that is not the entire story. If you do find something very valuable, that is the time to start checking into claims.
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Talusman
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 11:35:51 am »

Thanks R2D. Sage advice on allowable personal collecting.

I'm still left wondering what the law says about protected claims for Jasper and agate on public land. From what I've read there may be some confusion as to the definition/difference between a claim and a commercial collecting permit. Particularly when it comes to exclusive rights to a deposit.

Very good info so far - thank you!

-Jeremy

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kennyg
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 12:01:52 pm »

R2D is spot on

specifiicly  it  refers  to a rule in the 1872 mining act as the Prudent Man Rule

. Valid and Existing Rights Determinations

Holders of mining claims and sites located within lands later withdrawn from mineral entry must prove their right to continue to occupy and use the land for mining purposes. The owner must demonstrate they contain a discovery of a valuable mineral deposit and/or are used and occupied properly under the General Mining Law, as of the date of withdrawal and as of the date of the mineral examination. Mining claims or sites whose discovery or use or occupation cannot be demonstrated on the date of withdrawal or the date of mineral examination have no valid existing rights and will be contested by the Department.

1. The Prudent Man Rule was first defined in Castle v Womble, 19 LD 455 (1894), where the Secretary of the Interior held that: "Where minerals have been found and the evidence is of such a character that a person of ordinary prudence would be justified in the further expenditure of his labor and means, with a reasonable prospect of success, in developing a valuable mine, the requirements of the statute have been met."

2. The Marketability Test was first defined by the Secretary of the Interior in Solicitor's Opinion, 54 ID 294 (1933): "...a mineral locator or applicant, to justify his possession must show by reason of accessibility, bona fides in development, proximity to market, existence of present demand, and other factors, the deposit is of such value that it can be mined, removed, and disposed of at a profit."
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rocks2dust
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2016, 12:03:45 pm »

There are still some actual claims for agates (e.g., thunderegg beds) and jaspers on public lands. They used to hand those out with only minimal investigation, but I'm not aware of any new agate or jasper claims over the last few decades, likely because the likely costs exceeded any provable market value. Some older claims have been filed or donated to clubs and public groups (Maury Mt. was given by Hoot Elkins to the Prineville CoC). Some claims have also been abandoned, expired or ruled invalid over the years (due to not being worked, challenged, etc.), and that is also something that it would be nice if there were some central database so one could look up to see if there are active claims in an area. Last I checked, you had to look at a pile of paper maps in a local office. The whole mining law mess needs to be brought into the 21st century (even bringing it into the 20th century would be an improvement). There are a lot of misconceptions (like some claimholders thinking they can bar all access - you can pass through a claim and even look at what is there, though you cannot dig or take anything away with you without the claimholder's permission), and adjusted to eliminate some provisions that currently are no longer used (like converting a public claim to personal real estate ownership) and clarify things that are more important today than they were in 1872 (like not polluting streams and destroying soils). The stopgap regulations and legal patchwork fixes make things unnecessarily muddy.
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kennyg
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« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2016, 12:52:44 pm »

There is another law fairly recent compared to the 1872 law the 1920 mineral leasing law. It was originally deigned for commodities like oil and gas, but I know things like sand and gravel, limestone( for cement mainly ). and others fall in this category. It is possible that alluvial deposits such as MT agates may fall into this category.
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55fossil
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2016, 06:16:37 pm »

     First off, ask the BLM officer. He will tell you that collecting on any claim is allowed only by the claim holder. You may trespass and even camp on a claim but even picking up float is technically forbidden. I have had several claims and still mine one jasper claim that is legally claimed as being for jasper mining. Establishing value, etc are the rule now.
    I donated one plume agate claim to the Boise, Id club and Eugene Mueller's claim is right next to it. Gene will let you mine all you want. Go to his web site, request a permission slip and he requests that you pay him 5o cents a pound on the honor system.
    For those of you who feel it is quite okay to take rock off of a private claim please ask yourself this. How would you feel if it was your mine. You spent years and thousands of dollars to find that beautiful vein. Then you spent thousands of dollars removing the overburden to get enough jasper to hopefully cover your expenses. Then realize that you are one of hundreds of rock hounds that cross the claims every week of the summer. There are a dozen books and maps for sale and on the Internet that tell people exactly where to go to find the claims now. Believe me, it is not a few bad seeds taking the rocks. There are a lot of nice rockhounds that figure the claim owner would not miss 10 or 20 pounds.

PS:    I just spent the last three years digging a new prospect by hand. Some weeks I get nothing but I am now getting enough to pay for my gas. I do it for the joy I get. If I want to share it I will donate it to the rock club, which I have in the past. I hope all the honest people bear with me on this because you probably have no idea how bad the rock stealing is in the west. And yes, there is a lot of good rock on unclaimed land all over the Owyhee's where I mine. The search is half the fun.
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Talusman
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« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2016, 08:16:24 am »

Thanks to all - some great information and perspective. Sounds like it's a complicated topic and needs to balance at least three important goals:

1.) Provide a framework that makes it worthwhile for professional prospectors to find and share the really good stuff that we love to buy and work with.

2.) Preserve the tradition and legacy of rockhounding so that any citizen can take their family out to collect lapidary material on our shared public lands.

3.) Make sure we protect our natural heritage so the wild places we love to explore stay wild and beautiful for future generations.


Thanks again - your fellow rock nut, Jeremy

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55fossil
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« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2016, 11:23:00 am »

Jeremy;   

       Glad you brought this topic up.  Yes, it would be great if we could all just go collect anywhere we wanted with no restrictions. But it is just like my property when hunting season comes. A lot of people just think they can hunt anywhere. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to live out where you can property to hunt on. Just like it costs a lot of money to run a mining claim that most of us lose money on.
       It is not a complicated subject. The laws are on the books and many people choose to avoid them. I really like the friendly nature of these forums but we need to be honest. There are posts on here frequently where people knew they collected on private property or a claim without permission. That would be written permission. There are a lot of people who tell everyone, oh I have permission from Steve so we can go dig on XXX claim. It usually is BS and there is no written permission.
      In Hans Gamma's new book he shows all the mines and how to get there and tells you whether there is any material. It is a good book and I have 4 copies. But my old claim that is on it has been swarmed since his first edition that showed where it is at. My new claim is not in the book.
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Talusman
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« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2016, 11:50:06 am »

Hi 55,

I appreciate your perspective on the issue. The hunting analogy is interesting, as taking the opposite angle, you can't place a hunting claim on public land - everyone is free to hunt for the same animals if they buy a license.

I'm not trying to make a case for willy-nilly collecting. There are no claims out east - and you need permission to collect on private land. When out west I do the same - I recently was in NV and respected the wishes of the club that posted a claim on BLM land.

I do however believe that what "the laws" are is unclear. Reading information from claim owners leads me to believe Jasper claims are legally protected. Reading information from the BLM and mining authorities suggests they may not be. I'm trying learn for the sake of learning. I'm not planning on changing my collecting habits or collecting on staked claims. Just curious.

Is anyone aware of any litigation/cases based on collecting from posted Jasper claims and if they were decided in favor of the plaintiff or defendant?

Again, thanks for all of the information and opinions.

-Jeremy
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55fossil
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« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2016, 12:44:53 pm »

Jeremy;

     Simple solution; First, call the Oregon or any western state BLM office of your choice. Simply ask them what the law is on collecting on properly posted mining claims. My claims have always stated that they were for agate and jasper and were filed properly with the county, state and federal agencies. There is no willy nilly about it. The lawsuits have been tried in court and established that claims for jasper and agate are valid.
      I remember seeing posts by one mine owner who is well known here that were less than polite about people even driving up to his claim. Well, that  is rude and not correct either. But after being cussed at and worse by people whom I found removing rock from my claim I do understand his perspective, but it is still wrong.
      You are posting a lot of conjecture here that should be removed. You are not asking questions that have not already been resolved and settled in court. Alas, laws are for honest people and there will always be people that will collect from private property and claims without permission. No, I would not miss a bucket or two but multiply that times 100 every year and most people understand.   
   Enough said, time to do as you choose or just check the laws that are on the books and not cause confusion among the rock hound community with conjecture.
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