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2 minutes ago, DolanDave said:

How about the guys that claimed BLM land the Old Woman Meteorite was found on, and the government took it anyways, like Lunk said they basically said : meteorites are not locatable under the mining law and belong to the owner of the land they are found on.

Another mystery case with no record. The government did not take the Old Woman Meteorite. The discoverers signed a contract to have the meteorite delivered to a museum in southern California. Everything after that was about how their contract gave them no right to the meteorite - they had signed away their rights.

The BLM pointed out that since the Old Woman meteorite had been removed they could find no valuable minerals on which to base a claim. Just because a mining claim once had minerals is not evidence that it still does have minerals. You can't claim minerals that aren't there. They made the mining claim in an effort to bolster their claim that they had a right to the meteorite they had given away.

The BLM has never made a final decision that meteorites are not subject to mineral claim. If you ask why they might mumble something about BIG ELEPHANT IN ROOM. :ph34r:

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The 3 miners contacted the Smithsonian Institute and agreed to lead them to the site. After the visit and a determination that this particular find is one of largest and rarest specimens ever found, the three miners were informed that the Smithsonian was claiming title to the meteorite on behalf of the U.S. government. They gave the following reasons for their action: a) it is the property of the federal government if proven to be located on federal land, because it is subject to the 1904 Antiquities Act, and b) it does not qualify as “valuable mineral” as defined under the 1872 Mining Law. In other words, a large nickel/iron hunk of matter comes from some where else and is, therefore, not a mineral that can be claimed through discovery. The stunned miners were told that the Smithsonian typically negotiates a “finders fee” with those who find meteorites on federal land.

This is just what I have researched, and to claim Antiquities act ??? Hmmmm.....  Supposedly the 3 miners were forced sell the meteorite in a non disclosure , but only given a small amount, not the actual amount it was worth in millions...

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Lots of great information and resources there, thanks Clay Diggins; I’ve never seen the other side of things, just what I’ve read from other meteorite hunters. Looks like there is plenty of ammunition for both sides of the matter, but it appears that ultimately the courts have the final say.

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On 10/24/2017 at 5:11 PM, DolanDave said:

I do not believe in trespassing on others claims, but someday it will be written in law on what a meteorite will be considered. I tend to think it will swade in way of the claim owner.... good info from everyone... thanks Lunk and Clay for the input. I am surprised with all the lawsuits nowadays, there hasnt been a civil case on this subject yet.


There have already been several civil cases Dave. At least one made it all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Nininger himself encouraged several lawsuits challenging the Barringer claims. All of them were resolved in favor of the owners of the mining claims.

All laws in the United States agree that all valuable minerals on a mining claim belong to the mineral claimant. Meteorites are valuable and mineral so I doubt you will ever see a case where meteorite minerals are specifically segregated from the other valuable minerals. Congress could change that but Nininger was unable to convince them that was a good idea. Maybe in the future?

This does raise the question of how long meteorite material has to be on earth before it is considered just more minerals in the earth. There is pretty good evidence that the richest mineral deposit on earth, the Witwaterstrand, may be the result of a meteorite impact 2020 million years ago. Should those mines be closed in favor of preserving the potential meteorite material for study?

Considering that all the valuable minerals on earth are the direct result of space materials being attracted to earth's gravity well at what point do meteorite collectors give up on trying to differentiate one from the other? I know this question is being seriously studied in meteorology but I'm doubtful such a defining date can be established.

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