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There are definitely some areas out there underprospected still with lots of wide open space. Especially in a place like NM that isn't exactly a hotbed for prospecting discussion online like some of the more Western states. Places that get mentioned online get way too much attention and then get really hard to prospect. 

The reason I started learning all this stuff though is because I started out where it appeared every square inch of decent land was claimed since there were only a few known places to find gold near me and years worth of exploration outside those areas ended fruitless. So I went to great lengths to figure out exactly how to map this stuff accurately and find the tiny fragments between the existing claims that I might be able to get a foothold into.

When I started panning and later dredging in 2003, there wasn't even a complete copy of General Mining Act of 1872 online anywhere, the best one online was some weird scanned version with lots of artifact errors that was missing the last 5 or 6 paragraphs, and had some other act accidentally scanned in, which people as a result thought was part of the Mining Act. I spent 2 years searching for a copy in a library and finally found one on a trip to Denver, which I hand transcribed and put on an old page of mine that no longer exists, later linked and used on Wikipedia (which itself had been using the incorrect copy until then), and subsequently other sites later copied that one and I'm pretty sure that is the text most use today.

It blew my mind that people could be so specifically sure of what they thought was right, yet would link a completely incorrect and incomplete copy of the law they were quoting. I even had guns pointed in my face in a few cases. That's when I realized I couldn't trust what people said on forums and online in general in relation to the law and I had to do my own research. I would recommend the same. Don't even trust what I say. :biggrin:

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Yeah NM seems to have a perfect storm of things working against the prospector.  Not enough water to run equipment, but the soil is too moist all year round to dry wash it effectively.  Your right though that there is almost zero chatter about any gold currently being found in NM. 

Some of the lesser known district have almost not published info on them either.  But i am optimistic, that if i move there is will get on good gold.

The way i look at is that ive found awesome gold in VA which is a state that has produced only about 167,000 oz, in comparison NM has produced over 2,000,000 oz.  So NM has far more gold then VA to say the least.  

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17 minutes ago, PG-Prospecting said:

But i am optimistic, that if i move there is will get on good gold.

Not to mention it's a lot easier when you're a local.  Easier to research (e.g. close to libraries and county offices), less time to access and more opportunities to access, and more likely to be accepted by other locals.  I've been on all five GPAA claims in the Southern half of the state and although they may (or may not...) be hard hit, they are quite close to the best gold producing districts in that part of the state.  (North has historically produced the most gold, as you likely know.)

Hope you can fulfill your dream.


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Yeah there is definitely potential. You do seem to be doing real well in a place a lot of people might not find anything at all.

There is always Arizona next door if that fails. Or Colorado if you want a real exploration challenge! CO is probably the most underrated, underexplored terrain in the lower 48 when it comes to detecting. Check out the San Juans though if you want to see some truly awesome mining terrain and history and some of the most underappreciated mountains in the US, depending where you are at in NM it may be quicker to drive to them than other parts of NM. One of these days when I strike it rich, I'll retire in Telluride or Ouray, I love it down there but damn it's expensive.


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Another question, in the below picture over half of the area in 21N 5E is not gridded.  What does that mean?  Had is been withdrawn from  mineral entry, and prospecting is not allowed?  Its all in National Forest land, and is not part of a Monument nor is is private land.  Also im using this area as an example, it is not an area that i am interested or has any gold or other valuable minerals.  



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It probably means they might not have surveyed it yet, at least with whatever version of the public survey you are using. Check the Master Title Plats to see if they might have surveys now, they are usually kept updated.

You can get them and a lot of other stuff here: https://glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx, and the county recorder will usually have a more detailed and more updated MTP too, but requires searching through physical books usually at the office and is quite laborious.

Anyways, heading back out to work.

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That screen shot was taken from the glorecords land catalog.  


Thanks for all the help.  

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CO is probably the most underrated, underexplored terrain in the lower 48 when it comes to detecting.


Man that is the truth. I've seen some pretty amazing gold found by detectorists in CO. High grade stuff worth $100's per gram. Most people are panning for crumbs at parks set aside for the public. There are thousands of abandoned mines well off the beaten path, on unclaimed public land. If I were in northern NM I'd be heading north to do my prospecting.

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On 6/18/2019 at 12:43 PM, PG-Prospecting said:

Another question, in the below picture over half of the area in 21N 5E is not gridded.  What does that mean?  Had is been withdrawn from  mineral entry, and prospecting is not allowed?  Its all in National Forest land, and is not part of a Monument nor is is private land.  Also im using this area as an example, it is not an area that i am interested or has any gold or other valuable minerals.  



That PLSS pattern indicates that the area is unprotracted and possibly unsurveyed.

First about protraction:   When an area has not been physically surveyed and monumented in the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) imaginary lines that generally follow where the survey might be found if it were surveyed are drawn on the map. These lines are protracted by implication, there are no survey pins or monuments in place on the ground.

Protraction is useful for land descriptions but just like the PLSS grid depicted on your map protracted surveys are not to be considered geographically accurate. Since there has been no survey there is no way to know the exact position on the ground until a survey has been completed. On most maps it's virtually impossible to tell the difference between a physically surveyed PLSS grid and a protracted PLSS grid.

When an area appears to be unsurveyed and unprotracted on a map it's time for some intense study as to why it's being left that way. You are right to question what appears to be an anomaly.

The area you present on your map the PLSS survey has already been completed and the "empty" areas on the PLSS grid are actually the Palovadera land grant to the north and the Santa Clara Pueblo grant to the south. These areas are Royal Spanish land grants that precede the United States and are excluded from the Public Land Survey System. In essence you should treat them as very private lands. Obviously they are off limits to prospecting and claim. Best to avoid them at all costs. No tramping about or exploring without a verified grantee to physically accompany you.

And here we come to the real first step to studying land status outside of the original 13 colonies. The PLSS grid is only the spatial reference system and will not tell you anything specific about land ownership or status. You need to dig deeper before entering any area. In this case I took what should always be the first step in finding the actual status of current or former public lands - I obtained the Master Title Plat (MTP) for that Township.

These MTP maps have nothing to do with ownership or platting of County or State parcels. Those County maps may be helpful if you are seeking permission on private lands but they have no reliable information on public lands. The MTP is the working document that federal agencies rely on to keep the current land status record. Some of the MTP maps may have been published years ago but when a portion of the public lands they depict changes the map will be replaced with a new one depicting the changes. For that reason they are the first "go to" for all government agencies and public land users when researching an area.

Since you are in New Mexico the Master Title Plat was available to you on the GLO site. It might be one or a series of maps (supplements) showing land status for that Township. Those MTP maps and their supplements are closely interrelated with the Historical Index (HI) also available on the GLO. Together the MTP and HI contain the most current status and the history of the land status for any Township. The Master Title Plats are a visual guide to that status but it's important to understand that they do not represent objects on the ground. There are no physical depictions on this map, only land status issues described by reference to the PLSS.

Not all States MTPs are available on the GLO yet. If you use the Land Matters Land Status maps you can get the very latest MTP for any given area in the western states direct from a map query. Those maps also display land ownership and management which visually delineate status features like the Santa Clara Pueblo. Having everything in one place and available with a few clicks can really cut your initial research time down. It's never fun to discover that an area you have researched for hours is actually off limits. Always study the MTP first.

There is a rather arcane shorthand to the notation on these MTPs that is fairly brief and consistent but often presents a difficult hurdle for the beginner. Land Matters has assembled a group of tutorials to help the beginner get a quick start on reading Master Title Plats. Poke around there I suggest you start with Reading Master Title Plats for an orientation and then move on to the videos etc.

Good luck. You've got a bit of work ahead of you but the payoff will be the confidence to know which lands might be open to your prospecting. If you've got more questions just put them out there.


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On 6/18/2019 at 10:22 AM, PG-Prospecting said:

You can swing a metal detector over an active lode claim and not be considered claim jumping correct?  

No that's not claim jumping, it's higrading.

Claim jumping is the act of trying to create a right to already claimed ground with paperwork and lawyers. Claim jumping is an old and still ongoing scam but it's been mostly stamped out in the United States. The courts in the U.S. are tough on claim jumpers. Claim jumping and the defense against it is a civil court matter in the United States.

Higrading is the act of stealing from a claim you have no right to work. Basically it's just out and out theft and is treated as mineral trespass and theft by the courts. Higrading is usually a criminal matter but it also has a civil component so the victim can sometimes choose their own legal course of action or pursue both criminal and civil penalties.

Higrading can get you jail time claim jumping, in itself, can not.

The reason detecting a mining claim is higrading is due to the fact that a mining claimant has the  exclusive right to possession of all the valuable minerals and to the possession and use of the surface as necessary to extract those minerals. (Section 3 General Mining Act) The courts, including the Supreme court, have consistently supported the right of valid claim holders to all the valuable minerals within the bounds of their valid claim whether a lode or placer claim.

The single exception within the law is the duty of a placer claimant who applies for a patent to exempt known lode deposits within the placer from their application unless they have made a lode location over their placer before applying for the patent. You will find that detailed in Section 11 of the General Mining Act. The reason for this one twist is because placer patents cost $1.25 per acre and lode claims cost $2.50 per acre. Yeah lodes are twice as expensive as placers. Without that little twist people would just make big placer claims to cover known lodes.

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  • Similar Content

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      Lindgren, Waldemar, Graton, L. C., and Gordon, C. H., 1910, The ore deposits of New Mexico: U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 68, 361 p.
      Henderson, C. W., 1932, Gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc in New Mexico: U.S. Bur. Mines, Mineral Resources U.S., 1929, pt. 1, p. 729-759.
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