Seven Suggestions for Finding Workable Gold Ground (Part 3)

This post is the third installment in my series of suggestions for finding workable gold ground. Remember, my focus here is on small-scale gold prospectors and miners and their mining pards, not commercial mining operations.

3) Lease an active claim (or part of one).

I know you've heard me pitch quite a few bitches the past few years about gold claims and some of the negative aspects of that entire issue, including claim scamming by unscrupulous individuals or entire groups of similar parasites. Since then I've been scolded, roundly cursed, and threatened with legal action so I've learned to mellow out some in this regard (as much as that pains me to say). Many of my admonitions on gold claims, claim buying, and claim leasing have to do with a "buyer beware" point of view and I still want you to operate from that premise when considering any sort of claim acquisition or lease, OK? Do your homework up front and you'll reduce the chances of getting burned on a claim deal substantially. Also remember that the low lives and thieves hustling claims out there are a distinct minority as opposed to the majority of real claim owners who tend to be as honest as the day is long.

 (Mining claims come in all sizes and even wet or dry.)

Now lets get back to finding workable gold ground. The next viable option for you frustrated small-scale prospectors and miners out there is claim leasing. How does claim leasing work? Well, in general, you work out a written agreement with the current claim holder to mine his or her claim for a specific period of time.  A sort of claim rental deal. What's that? Yes, you're right...most claim leasing involves commercial-scale mining endeavors, not those of a small-scale nature. That said, however, I've leased claims myself back in my suction dredging days and I know many other individual miners or small groups of miners who have as well. The trick is getting a lease tailored to your mining expectations and needs as well as your wallet. Leases can vary from a few months time (let’s say a typical dredging or dry washing season) on up to a year or longer. The few leases I've been involved with in the past were of the seasonal variety and generally contained good gold. Which brings me to another point. Why lease a shitty claim and pay good money for it when you can backtrack to that burnt-out public ground or those stingy club diggings? Getting the picture here? I thought so.


How you pay for a lease is dependent on a range of issues including how much ground you're actually leasing or "renting." This could be an entire claim of 20 acres or more, a series of claims, certain portions of a claim, or simply one small area of a claim. It's all up to you and the claim owner in terms of what's acceptable to both parties. Whatever the choice or the case, you'll hopefully end up with decent gold ground where you won't be crowded out or have to look over your shoulder every five minutes for fear someone will catch you claim jumping! Payment for a lease can come in many forms, including an up-front cash lump sum; daily, weekly, monthly, or annual payments; a percentage of the gold you recover (the common approach); or any other method that suits both of the involved parties.

I know what you're asking yourself at this point: "How's the claim owner gonna know just how much gold I'm getting when it comes time for me to give him or her a percentage of the take?" It's a reasonable question and a good one but it ain't rocket science either my friend. No claim owner is going to know EXACTLY what you're taking out down to the last gold grain, but any commercial claim owner worth his or her own salt knows the expected value of gold per cubic yard on average at his or her diggings. And, most small-scale claim owners know how much gold should be gotten per day from their ground whether you're using a suction dredge, a high banker, a dry washer, or a simple sluice box or gold pan. If you're a claim owner and DON'T have a clear idea of what your own gold ground contains and should produce per day per yard per piece of gear, then methinks you have no business owning a gold claim unless you, like many do, use it solely for camping or recreational purposes. And if the latter is true then you're not much better than the parasites and low lives I mentioned earlier because you're committing another variation of claim fraud. Tough nut to swallow isn't it?

 (Having a good idea of the average gold values per cubic yard in a claim is fundamental for lessors and lessees as well.)

I've already alluded to this fact but some claim holders will break a claim up into multiple leases and "rent" ground to more than one person or group of people. This is one way claim owners can get more bang for the buck and is done more often than you might think, although this rarely takes place in commercial mining ventures. It's usually associated with clubs, small groups, or individual small-scale gold miners. Another thing to consider here is that some claim owners are willing to "rent" their claims on a daily basis. During the summer months in California's Motherlode Region this is a fairly common practice, or at least it was back in the days when I was working the N. Yuba River and some of its feeder streams. Daily fees are usually taken in folding green (i.e., cash) and typically are pretty reasonable.

As you can, see claim leasing or "renting" is a viable means of gaining access to workable gold ground if you can strike the deal you're looking for as a small-scale guy or gal. I've done it in the past and have no complaints but then again, I was dealing with honest, up front claim owners. Make sure you do the same if you decide to take this route, OK?

Best of luck out there.

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. Good morning JR, I saw a gold TV show last night I haven't seen before. It's called "Fool's Gold". They named this one right! It makes the Hoffman's look like the ultimate experts. It is advertized as " A group of guys looking to strike it rich gold mining. There's just one problem,...they don't know what their doing." I'm glad to see more interest in mining the last few years. I guess with the gold price going up it had to happen, but I wish they would make an effort to film an accurate, informative show. Something useful and not just "mindless couch potato stuff". The clubs you have been writing about in these posts have got to be doing well with these shows putting ideas in people's heads.Good or bad, it is basically advertizing for them. Anyway, back to work. I hope you have a great day! Gary


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