Methinks I'm about to open a big can of worms in this post since I have some pretty strong views about this particular suggestion for finding workable gold ground. I promise I'll try to remain objective, however. That said, you can also count on the fact that I'll be pulling no punches herein either. So grab a cold beer or a cup of Joe and settle in.
4) File on or buy your own gold claim.
One way to make certain you always have your own workable gold ground is to file on an unclaimed gold placer or lode parcel or buy an existing claim. Sounds pretty simple doesn't it? In some ways it is and in some ways it isn't. I've owned a number of placer gold claims over the years and early on (30 plus years ago) it was a pretty painless experience. There were plenty of decent wet and dry placer claims available to file on back then so laying out lots of cash for one wasn't really necessary unless a guy or gal wanted to get into commercial mining. Today, things have changed quite a bit in this regard due to the higher gold prices the past eight years or so and the constant, unrelenting hype about gold mining as evidenced on various reality TV shows and in certain dream merchant sales pitches. For some time now even the most inexperienced, incompetent boneheads want to be gold miners (or claim they already are) and are set to sell the house, leave the wife and kids at grandma's, and head for the goldfields to strike it rich. I admire the enthusiasm in all this but I abhor the stupidity and what will probably be very adverse consequences for most, if not all, of these poor, deluded souls. But hey...gold fever is what it is.
(Note: I'm not going to mess with the ins and outs of how to file or buy a claim in this post since that's not the major emphasis here. If you're unaware of how claims and claim filing or buying work, then use the Search Bedrock Dreams function in the right sidebar and you'll find that info in other posts I've written or that others have contributed. J.R.)
Things to Know
There are a number of serious issues to consider nowadays regarding claim acquisition and one that affects your wallet or pocketbook immediately is that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has increased the annual fee structure to the point that a number of small-scale miners owning multiple claim parcels have allowed their claims to lapse. I myself took this route when the annual fees for my 160-acre claim in California went from around $150.00 (USD) per year to $1,200.00! Prior to this point and regardless of your claim's size in 20-acre parcels, you only paid one low annual fee no matter how large the claim. Now this new fee development may may be peanuts to larger mining operations or if you're getting plenty of gold out of your claim but for someone like me who could only get back out to California once a year for a week or two, holding on to that claim was a no-win proposition. Not to mention the fact it was hard to get to and rife with boundary (and other) issues. One thing many would-be miners are not familiar with is that in addition to your annual fees, you will owe annual property tax money to the County Assessor as well. Again, if you're adept at small-scale mining and getting the gold or are flush with cash and just like having a claim or two, then these issues are easily brushed aside. But many of those caught up with gold fever aren't aware of these sorts of practical considerations and only find out after the fact when their golden bubble has burst.
One thing you do need to know is that the typical mining claim these days is unpatented. That means you only possess the mining rights to that claim and you DO NOT OWN the land the claim is on. This means you can't build permanent structures on your claim or prevent other folks from fishing on it or traversing through it even though many high-handed claim holders act as if they can. The law states differently though. The only thing you can prevent others from doing on an unpatented claim is panning, sluicing, dry washing, dredging, highbanking, etc. In other words they can't prospect or mine on your claim. You also have the right to camp out on your claim for two-week intervals and no longer than that. When the two weeks are up, pack up your gear, drive back into town for a pizza and maybe a hot shower and real bed, then return to your claim for another two weeks the following day. Some folks do this and some don't. Some claim squatters (as I "affectionately" call them) don't even mine their claims but use them as recreational camp grounds for themselves, their friends, and their families. Personally, I despise these types almost as much as I do claim scammers...but hey, that's me. In the old days prior to the Bill Clinton (he of dubious dress stain deposits) administration, patented claims were still a viable option. With a patented claim you actually DO own the land that your claim is on and can post "No Tresspassing" signs to your heart's content or even break out the old 12-guage loaded with rock salt. But thanks to "Slick" Willie and the usual congressional n'er-do-wells, you won't be filing a patented claim these days. Sure, you can buy one from a current owner but you'll pay a pretty penny for that right.
Heart of the Matter
There are all sorts of gold claims for all sorts of people, if the truth be told. On the low end of the totem pole are the crap claims that have been beaten to death over the years. Many crap claims are easily accessed and are often favored by gold prospecting or mining clubs for this very reason. You can usually find a little bit of color on these types of claims and may even get lucky occasionally and find a few chunkers or even a small nugget. Typically though, these claims are hardscrabble at best. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the "elite" claims (often in more remote areas) where gold values run high and/or nugget and coarse gold recoveries are not all that uncommon. Commercial mining operations or small-scale miners who know their shit and have the right gear tend to favor these sorts of claims and are willing to pay good money for them.
(Tip: you won't find elite-type claims open for filing by the average Jane or Joe very often...if at all. You're going to have to dish out lots of folding green for the privilege of working one of these bad boys. But, like always, you get what you pay for. J.R.)
Now to the heart of the matter. I know many of you have asked me about buying gold claims you've seen listed online via eBay or on claim-seller websites. Most of these sellers are probably legitimate but a certain percentage are not and that's the simple truth of the matter. So buyer beware. Since gold prices started going up some years ago gold claim scams have been part and parcel of that meteoric rise. The higher the gold prices and the more awe-struck the wannabes and greenhorns out there became, the larger the number of claim-scamming cockroaches and parasites who came scuttling out of dark corners and from beneath the rocks they'd been hiding under. I can't tell you how many people have approached me in private via phone or e-mail these past six or seven years to tell me their tales of woe as they were ripped off by various claim scammers, some of whom were operating (and still are) on eBay (not really eBay's fault by the way...they can't ID every scammer on that site) or through overblown, phony ass websites. I too had a minor run in with a notorious California claim scammer and pursued him relentlessly here until I was served legal notice to cease and desist lest I be hauled into court for "defamation of character." And this S.O.B. had NO character at all! Go f'ing figure...
(Typical eBay gold claim...dry placer.)
(eBay wet placer.)
(Here's a qualifier while we're on this topic. I know miners and claim sellers out there who are as honest as the day is long and who are as fair-minded as they come...sterling individuals with a decent commodity to sell who follow the rules and wouldn't dream of ripping anyone off. These sorts of folks form the great MAJORITY of claim sellers everywhere so you're good to go with them.)
Anyway, let me say once again that it's buyer beware when it comes to gold claims. If you FAIL to do your research homework on the front end, then you run the risk of taking it in the posterior farther down the road. That's the long and short of it. In truth, mining claims are a great way to go for most small-scale miners looking for their own workable gold ground. After all, who in their right mind wouldn't like to have their own spot to prospect or mine?
Just remember this: not every mining dream turns to gold...
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org