All About Lode Gold Mines (Conclusion)

I'm going to wrap this series up with this post so we can move on to other topics of interest. My main thrust here focuses on safety, safety regulations, and environmental factors when working a lode gold claim.

A Huge Issue

Safety is a huge issue in any mining enterprise...placer or lode. In lode mining the Feds, state, and local "authorities" are pretty specific about what they expect from a safety standpoint and they are also pretty damn determined that you don't stray from existing mining safety laws and regulations. Of course, there is a method behind all this madness and the fundamental idea behind all this bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo is to keep you (and others) safe while doing your thing on a lode claim. There are two main governmental entities that deal with mine safety on the Federal level: the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Additionally, each state has its own, smaller variants of these larger, Federal organizations and both state and Federal safety requirements tend to overlap at times. I'll be totally up front here. The actual laws and regulations governing mine safety are far too voluminous to recount here. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the entire issue of safety whether you're a placer or lode gold miner or both. As I've said many times in Bedrock Dreams, no amount of gold is worth dying for or being crippled up or maimed. Another consideration from the lode mine standpoint is that both Federal and state safety inspectors are bound to show up at your lode operation at some point or another and if they find things amiss from a safety standpoint...well pard, they will shut your ass down...pure and simple. In a way, this a good thing. It helps prevent the stupid or careless from harming themselves or others. Me? I've puttered around on lode claims and helped out others on them for very short periods. But I will readily admit I'm claustrophobic and get the heebie-jeebies when underground or walking into a lode mine. That's why I'm primarily a placer miner and always have been. I also avoid old, abandoned mine shafts like the plague. They are far too dangerous to enter for the most part and I recommend you steer clear of them too.

 (Old mine shafts and prospect holes are dangerous places.)

Environmental Regulations

If anything is going to make you throw up your hands in despair and forget the entire lode gold mine issue it is the massive amount of bullshit you're going to have to contend with from an environmental regulations standpoint if you're planning to make your lode claim operations significant or substantial. Right from the get go you're going to have to prepare and submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is no small undertaking. I know...back around the mid 1990s I worked on an EIS for a scientific consulting firm involved in Federal contract work and it was a huge undertaking that required a full-time staff of around 30 people, including engineers, scientists, tech writers, and admin folks. Now as a small-time operator your environmental impacts are probably not going to be that significant and the Feds and the state regulators may cut your some slack by allowing you to file what they call a "negative declaration" or "nominal declaration." The former simply says that you anticipate no significant environmental impact from your small-scale lode operations. With the latter you are stating that any environmental impacts from your mining work will be slight, or "nominal." However, to get either one of these declarations through the Federal or state "systems" takes time and those bureaucrats have to agree with you about your assessment of the environmental impacts involved. Whatever the case, everything you do on your lode claim must comply with the appropriate Fed and state environmental regulations. So all this bureaucracy is ostensibly there to protect the environment from all you rapacious and hell-bent-on-destruction small-scale miners! In truth? A good part of the environmental regulations we deal with today were put into effect to satisfy certain social and political agendas and the money behind those agendas. And the big mining corporations? Well, the big corporate mining boys have the money to grease political palms and get their open-pit operations OK'd regardless. But the bureaucrats make them jump through the same hoops just to put on a good "dog and pony show" for the environmentalist nut jobs out there. Oh, and one last thing here. The U.S. Forest Service has its own environmental regulations that fall under the larger Fed umbrella. Getting the bureaucratic picture here? They have you coming and going.

More's the Pity

Now let's say your lode gold mine or claim is way out in the boonies somewhere in the deserts or mountains and miles and miles of rutted roads are the only access in. Are you still held accountable for all these safety and environmental regulations? Of course you are. But here's the deal. If your lode operation is very small the likelihood of you being "visited" by safety and environmental inspectors is very low...or at least lower than more accessible lode operations. But remember, the claim you filed is on record. Should you decide to blow off certain aspects regarding safety or the environment (and I'm not recommending you do) you do face the possibility of being hauled up short by the bureaucratic agencies in question. Hauled up short and fined! So do what you gotta do however you want to do it, but be prepared to "pay" the consequences if you're caught dancing around the required regs and paperwork. It ain't like the old days when a miner or single-blanket jackass prospector could do his or her thing freely and without laboring under mounds of bureaucratic restrictions and paperwork. More's the pity in many respects...

The Short End

I apologize for sounding so negative here, but the fact of the matter is that it seems the little guy or gal wanting to operate a small-scale lode mine is always on the short end of the stick. Meanwhile, the multi-million or billion dollar mining corporations get by because they know "it takes a gold mine to operate a gold mine" and the "greenies" ultimately call the shots for all of us from a legislative standpoint. Old-time lode prospectors and miners like "Shorty" Harris, "Ed" Cross, and "Pete" Aguereberry must be turning over in their desert graves right now.

("Shorty" Harris.)

God rest their implacable souls...

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. A friend of mine said "When WHY is the question, MONEY is always the answer". I think more often than not, that is the case.
    It's truly amazing the human race has survived. Until recently, nobody was looking out for us and keeping us "safe".
    As you say, to a point, it's a good thing, but like everything else, they tend to over do it. Environmental issues are the same way........and my Dad worked for the EPA!
    He died from cancer back in 1980, but even back then he wasn't happy about what the EPA was becoming. All too often, and in my opinion in this case as well, what started out as a good thing, has turned sour. Just the way of the world I suppose.
    I enjoyed this series JR. Lode mining is not a cut and dried to me as placer mining, but it is something I would like to know more about. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Gary. And by the're doing an excellent job with your YouTube Channel.

  2. I will tell you something that is messed up. A friend of mine told me awhile back that anyone can file over the top of your mining claim, and a few days ago I had the mining administrator for the local Forest Service confirm that to me.
    The damn government will accept the fees from whoever wants to file on a claim, and then it is up to the different claim holders to fight it out in court, and a judge to decide who actually owns the claim.
    There is nothing you can do to prevent someone from doing that either.
    Can you imagine going on to your claim and finding other people legally working/robbing your mining claim?
    Oh my my! 150 years ago we know exactly how those disputes got settled.
    But today, in the lovely modern world of doing things, we have laws to protect thieves.
    What if someone filed over the top of a bunch of claims and then turned around and sold memberships to their newly formed mining club?
    All of a sudden dozens of people are on those stolen claims, and what are you going to do about it if you are the claim owner?
    I don't know if it is true or not, but I recall reading a few years ago about the owner of a very large mining club based in Happy Camp that started that club by filing over the top of lots of mining claims.
    If anyone could confirm that one way or the other I'd appreciate it.

    1. Well I know of whom you speak about up in the Klamath River and Happy Camp area. I can't prove or disprove what you say. But one thing I do know...he has fought the good fight over the rights of small-scale miners for many years now. He's also turned his claims and clubs into a decent living. I'll leave it at that.

    2. Yes, you are right Jim. The guy has done a lot for mining rights and his club members. If I lived near there I would probably belong to that club.
      I was too hard on the guy and was making an assumption based on a internet article, and for that I sincerely apologize!

    3. Hey need for apologies with me. You made a good point in your previous comments. So never apologize for stating your opinion brother. You have merit there...

    4. So, if someone can file over the top of your claim, what good is the claim and why bother to file on it?
      That's like selling a house to two separate families and expecting them to live there without trouble!
      Thank you Jim on the Youtube compliment! I went up the mountain a few days ago....still too much snow, but I bet another week or so, I'll make it! Gold prospecting videos yet to come!

    5. Let me know when the gold videos are done Gary!

    6. I stumbled across you web site and though I'd relate a few things I've learned. Don't trust Google topo maps, they are not always right, especially when they list the wrong location to an old mine site. Don't trust old ghost town books, do your own research. Take lots of samples and keep accurate accounts of the type of rock and if it contained free gold in it. Best to keep a piece and crush a piece so you can look for that type of rock. Remember that the old mines had waste rock piles and ore piles. Sample to learn which was which. Look for gold where it has been found before, makes it easier. Over the years weathering will reveal new "fresh gold" in rock so don't be thinking it's not gold. I've found some nice specimens in outcroppings, weathered out from being sulphides to oxides. Good luck out there.


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