Looking for a mining claim? This may be a good year to find that perfect claim. Whether you're a small miner trying to pick up a few pieces of gold in California, or a major mining company in Nevada, 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for abandoned mining claims
Each year thousands of mining claims across the West are abandoned or forfeited by their owners. Claims are abandoned or forfeited for a lot of reasons but it generally comes down to one thing - failure to file annual fees or waivers. We've been tracking over half a million mining claims for the past six years and each year we run the numbers on what's abandoned and available. The table below provides a quick snapshot for three of the states we follow.
A normal year in Nevada sees about 20,000 claims pending abandonment. For 2019 we're seeing about normal numbers. This early in our reporting period we have an 55% accuracy rate for predicting forfeitures based off our current list. Last year we had 21,000 on the list this time of year and we ended up with 10,984 which were officially closed.
Abandonments for Nevada are about normal for 2018 and it looks about the same for 2019 based on our current list. We are seeing an increase in new filings for Nevada with new filings about double abandonments. Over the past 12 months there were over 26,000 new claims filed. The leader in new filings was Newmont with 2,384 claims filed but there were also six other mining companies which filed over 1,000 claims in 2018. 148 companies filed at least 100 new mining claims in Nevada last year and 258 filed 10 or less.
In Nevada we typically see a pretty wide dispersion of filings. A single company may concentrate a large number of claims in an area, but in general we see large numbers filed throughout the state so a high density in a particular area isn't a great indicator of a huge new strike. That being said the area around Goldfield has been seeing the highest number of new filings in 2018.
California is a small miner's state. California has about 7,700 individual claim owners. There are very few large holdings and virtually no holdings by the big mining companies. In California 56% of claim owners hold only a single mining claim. In Nevada 75% of claim owners hold more than 1 mining claim and the average number of claims held is about 64. That number, though, is heavily skewed by big companies such as Newmont and Barrick. The average number of claims per claim owners in California is 4.3. 90% of California claim owners own 5 or less mining claims.
Usually in October we see about 3,000 to 3,500 claims on our pending action list. This year we're looking at 5,200 which is a significant increase from previous years. Of that number about 60% are placer claims and nearly 100 of these claims were located prior to 1960, so we're looking at a pretty good collection of very old placer claims which may be available. The highest number of claims pending action are located near Alleghany a well known hard rock area, but also includes placer locations such as the Middle Fork of the Yuba and Kanaka Creek as well as smaller ravines.
Arizona always has good opportunity for the small scale miner, as well as larger concerns. About 90% of Arizona claim owners have 10 or fewer claims indicating a lot of the claims on our watch list would be suitable for the small miner. While Arizona doesn't have the number of large claim holders Nevada does, it still has 137 claim owners who own more than 100 mining claims.
Last year in Arizona we had about 2,700 mining claims forfeited. About 500 of those were placer claims and a handful of those placer claims were very old claims dating back to the 1920's and 1940's. When we started we were tracking about 3800 claims so the accuracy rate for Arizona was about 90%.
We're seeing an increase in new locations in Arizona and a net increase in claims overall. While last year we had a little under 3,000 mining claims abandoned, over the same time period we saw 6,600 new filings.
At the start of 2018 Arizona had 46,120 mining claims. During the year about 2,700 were abandoned and about 6,600 claims were located. We're currently watching about 3,300 claims and expect slightly higher closures than last year, but in general we think it will be a normal year.
Our money is always on Nevada. We don't see anything in the foreseeable future which would change this. The increased efforts in California to choke off even the smallest of mining presents an opportunity for the small miner to pick up some nice claims in hopes the regulatory environment might change. If you're willing to take a risk its possible to pick up some very nice claims right now in California and if the State legalizes dredging again you could be sitting on some valuable properties. Arizona is such a diverse state in regards to minerals, and over the past few years we've seen some really nice claims come available for the small-scale miner. All things being equal - we'd be looking in Nevada.
For the past six years the Western Mining Alliance has issued reports on available mining claims for all the western states. This year claim reports are only available by request. If you want information on available claims for most western states you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.