All About Lode Gold Mining (Part 6: Trespass)

Back to lode gold mining it is folks. In this post I'll be talking about the issue of trespass, which seems to be a thorn in the backside of many claim holders (lode and placer)...go figure!

Limited Rights

OK, so here we go again with this issue of defending your lode claim against so-called "trespassers." Remember, with unpatented mining claims (both lode and placer) your rights are limited when it comes to what you can and cannot do in this regard. For the most part, Federal and state laws seem to go in the following direction when it comes to trespass issues:

1) Your rights as a claim owner or holder are, again, limited in nature.

2) You have no right right to build fences around your claim or any other barrier of a similar nature. (I suspect this includes stringing razor wire, and placing trip flares and Claymore mines around the claim's perimeter. Just a guess here...)

3) Coincidental to number two in this list, you don't have the right to erect or place "No Trespassing" signs on your claim. However, you can put up one of those bright yellow or orange mining claim signs that say "no prospecting, panning, mining," etc.

(Nope. Don't even think about it.)

4) You have absolutely no right to prevent others from transiting over, onto, or across your claim as long as they don't do any prospecting or mining. This includes hikers, campers, hunters, fishermen, trappers, and the like. Even if a bunch of drunken yahoos show up to party you can't really do a damn thing about it, no matter what you may think or how "puffed up" you get. Hard-headed and doubt what I'm saying here? Take a gander at the fine print of the "United States Multiple Use Act."

Note: Once again, it's time for one of my mini- rants. I can't tell you how many placer claim holders I've come across or known over the course of my 40-year small-scale mining career who seem to think just the opposite is true. They think they "own" the land their claim is on and not just the mineral rights, and feel they can threaten or browbeat anyone who comes near their claim, let alone on it. I doubt if anyone reading this operates like these overbearing idiots, but if there is one of you out there get it through your thick skull that you can do absolutely NOTHING about people who come onto your claim for purposes other than prospecting or mining. I know this fact can be aggravating and I'll admit it used to aggravate me as well. But I knew the law in this regard and never tried to pull a Wyatt Earp on these folks. Your mining claim doesn't give you the right to threaten folks, pull a pistola on them, or otherwise harass them if they are not claim jumping. Get it?

4) What you do have a right to do on your lode (and placer) claim is to prevent others from trespassing near active mining operations, storage sheds, mills, and so on. Legally, these sorts of things are viewed from a safety standpoint. So, you can erect or post "Caution!," "Danger!," or "No Trespassing" signs or signs of a similar nature near these locations on your lode claim but again, not along its outer perimeters.

If you do have storage sheds with gear and equipment on your lode claim be advised of the following. One time back in the 1980s myself and a pard arrived at his lode claim site only to find the shed he had built to store gear and equipment had been broken into and his generator and tools gone. You might say he was a bit foolish for storing expensive gear there and the leaving it to take care of business elsewhere but what's a guy or gal supposed to do? Lug all that stuff back and forth? Whatever the case, vandalism or theft like this can happen and is probably even more likely today. By the way, any dirty, low-down thieving skunk who does something like this and leaves a miner without the means to work his or her claim deserves the worst. I'll let you interpret what "worst" means. (Personally, I despise thieves of any variety...mining or no mining.)

5) Note that existing legal entities (state and Federal) tend to view most claim trespass issues as "innocuous incursions." In other words, the law generally views most so-called trespasses as unintentional and for purposes other than prospecting or mining. So if you're looking to take somebody to court over claim trespass issues be advised you'd better be able to prove your case in rock-solid fashion or you're probably going to come out on the shitty end of the stick...financially and legally. On the other hand, start threatening people or waving a gun around on your claim at hikers or hunters and you're liable to end up in court with that shitty stick jammed all the way up your behind. Or even worse if the other party is armed as well.

(It's just an "innocuous incursion" unless he breaks out that gold pan.)

6) You don't have the right to prevent county, state, or Federal agents (geologists, safety inspectors, etc.) or law enforcement officers from coming onto your claim or preventing them from carrying out their duties, whatever those might be. However, in most instances like this the folks coming out to inspect or visit your lode claim will ask for permission to do so prior to performing their bureaucratic or law enforcement duties. So act accordingly. It's in your best interests as a claim holder to NOT get tight-jawed and blustery with folks like this and make things worse for yourself for absolutely no good reason. Most of these folks will cut you some slack if you're reasonable and courteous with them. Case in point? Just take a look at any reality TV cop show where some idiot is just gonna get a ticket and then starts arguing or threatening a police officer. End result? They end up handcuffed in the back seat of a police vehicle on their way to county jail.

As you can see, your rights as a claim holder are, indeed, limited. So stay cool out there.

(c) Jim Rocha 2018

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. So.....since you have to do yearly work on your claim, do you have to update the claim notice? Many claims I find here are old 1970's or so. Am I OK to prospect there?

    1. It's a good question Gary, but I'm not sure if you have to update your claim notice. I don't think so, but I could be wrong. Your best bet, as always, is to check the claim's status with the county clerk/recorder and/or the BLM.

  2. It seems like you should have to update it, if for no other reason than to prove it is an active claim. I find a lot of them around here, yet none show any signs of recent work. If the notice is only a few years old, I don't prospect there, but 10 years plus, I figure they are fair game. Maybe they are still "active", maybe they are not, but I don't have the time or desire to go into enemy territory and ask .
    If you don't have to update them, what is keeping the anti mining folks from coming up with a bogus name, say "Green Mining Company", staking a bunch of claims only to stop mining? Yearly updating would be too much time, money and hassle for more than just a few claims, unless they were "for real".
    If they look like someone has worked them, that is a different story and I leave them alone.


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