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Fee change could result in dropped mining claims

NNBW staff

A slight change to a relatively obscure mining law could result in fewer claims filed in Nevada for 2012.

The Bureau of Land Management changed the way association placer claims are filed in the state effective Sept. 1, says Alan Coyner, administrator for the Division of Minerals. Formerly, up to eight individuals could join together and associate up to a maximum of 20 acres each as a way of sharing the $140 cost of annual claim fees, Coyner says.

The BLM now charges $140 for every 20 acres in an association. The annual maintenance fee on two parcels of 20 acres now costs $280, and for eight 20-acre parcels the maximum allowed under an association claim is $1,120.

“That is a big increase it went up eight times to hold the same ground,” Coyner says.

There are three types of federal mining claims filed in the state:

* Placer, the loose nuggets found in sand and gravel

* Association, groups of placer claims

* Lode, or the gold buried deep underground often underneath placer claims. The majority of mining in Nevada is done under lode mine claims.

The change affects a relatively small number of claimants. Of the 224,772 claims filed in Nevada for fiscal year 2012, just 8,000 were association placer claims. Those claimants, however, are typically individuals prospecting for gold much like the classic 49ers.

“This doesn’t affect big companies; it affects the small miner,” Coyner says. “There is a positive in this for larger companies. The small guy will drop claims and that frees up ground that a larger company might be more interested in.”

Coyner says association placer claims could drop nearly 50 percent for the coming fiscal year as groups shed themselves of the cost of claims fees. Mining claimants also must pay state fees, which help fund the Division of Minerals.

“The actually money gain will be a negative to the BLM for the number of claims that will be dropped,” Coyner says.