Nevada’s rich mineral deposits make it one of the country’s most attractive mining sites. Nicknamed the Silver State because of its exceptional precious metals production, Nevada is home to more than 100 active nonfuel mines.

While companies continue to file claims for gold, silver, lithium and tungsten, the federal government has placed restrictions on many materials. Mining legislation refers to these materials as “nonlocatable” minerals. Mine owners cannot openly stake claims for nonlocatable materials on federal or protected land.

Nonlocatable minerals under The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920

The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 placed restrictions on specific mining targets on federal lands. Under this act, mine owners must lease or purchase the rights for the following materials from the federal government:

  • Native asphalt and bitumen, commonly used in construction
  • Potassium and phosphate, commonly used in the agriculture industry
  • Sodium, commonly used in pharmaceuticals and organic compounds

This act also restricted mining for fuel sources including oil, oil shale, gas and coal. These materials make many aspects of everyday life possible. By designating these minerals nonlocatable, the federal government can regulate the supply and keep consumer costs manageable.

Nonlocatable minerals under The Multiple Surface Use Act of 1955

The federal government further restricted mining claims on federal land for more common variety minerals, including:

  • Sand
  • Stone, including gravel and cinder
  • Clay
  • Pumice and pumicite

The Multiple Surface Use Act of 1955 also disallowed the collection of petrified wood. However, mining operations can collect up to 25 pounds (plus one piece) per day in unprotected areas.

Sand, stone, clay and pumice play vital roles in industries such as construction and landscaping. However, mining these materials can contribute to larger environmental problems. A nonlocatable designation prevents miners from digging up forests and dredging river deltas to gain access.

Nonlocatable minerals in disagreement

The Nevada Commission on Mineral Resources recognizes a handful of minerals contended in legal battles.

Nonlocatable: United States v. Mansfield made obsidian used for gem cutting a nonlocatable material. People of the State of California ex rel. Younger v. Mead established meteorites as nonlocatable.

Locatable: The ruling of United States v. Bolinder established geodes as a locatable material in 1976. United States v. Multiple Use, Inc. helped glass sand become a locatable material in 1991.

These cases reflect the ever-evolving nature of mineral rights and mining claims both in Nevada and nationally. Although nonlocatable designations may seem like an added level of difficulty in establishing your mine, these regulations provide important environmental and consumer protections. To ensure that your claim complies with federal law, seek guidance from a mineral rights professional.