Modern claim jumping

One night early in January of 2009 the owner of a mining company waved down a sheriff’s deputy on the road near his mining claim. Using night vision equipment the officer then saw three men with flashlights working in a steep, rocky canyon. When confronted one of the men managed to flee but the other two were arrested carrying a metal detector, rock picks and a hammer and were taken to jail where they were charged with attempted grand theft from a mining claim.

A Peep at Washoe, My Claim Sir !

According California Penal Code 487 (d), “every person who feloniously steals, takes, and carries away, or attempts to take, steal, and carry from any mining claim, tunnel, sluice, undercurrent, riffle box, or sulfurate machine, another’s gold dust, amalgam, or quicksilver is guilty of grand theft and is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison.” It certainly looked like these two men were attempting to steal another person’s gold and doing it at night surely adds to that suspicion.

It would seem claim jumping is alive and well in the California gold country. But if this is the law in California, that no man can take another’s gold dust, amalgam or quicksilver, and quicksilver is the dreaded mercury that the environmentalists want to eliminate from the rivers and an amalgam is the bond mercury makes with gold enabling the gold to be more easily recovered, then how can anyone clean any river currently under a mining claim without breaking the law? If they attempt to remove the mercury, much less the gold, from the claim of another man they are, by law, in the act of grand theft and can be sent to state prison.


As far as is known no welcoming hand of cooperation has been extended from those whose desire is to clean the offending toxins from the water to those who own the mining rights. Why? It would seem that cooperation between the two parties would be in the best interest of both sides. Everyone who uses our rivers wants to see the toxin’s removed. Suction dredge miners remove mercury in the course of their daily activities. Perhaps the lack of cooperation was a simple oversight on the part of both parties and they will soon meet and work out a solution as reasonable men should.

But what if this is not about cleaning the rivers and protecting fish and wildlife? What if it is simply about the gold? Already miners complain of harassment from state officials that make mining difficult and suction dredge mining impossible. Anyone can take possession of an abandoned claim, or a claim where the requirements of the law have not been met. And finally a claim can be taken by stealth, fraud or force. Keep a careful eye to the claim holders. If they are being forced from their claims then this is simply about the gold. Always remember, mineral rights in America belong to the people not the government, and claim jumping, no matter the reason, no matter the scale, is illegal, no matter who does it.


  1. Hey John,

    I am currently the owner of mineral rights on the American River and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District wants to put a small hydro plant on it. Now, I was wondering are they allowed to do that on our mining claim? Because that impedes us mining a portion of our claim. Also, what happens when they start tearing up the ground? Do we get to keep any minerals they dig up? You are the first person I wrote about this, and I do not know where to start.

    Here is an article about SMUD “jumping” our mining claim.


    • Hi RC,

      I’m sorry to hear of your problem, but I am not at all surprised.

      If you recall, the coalition of the California liberal legislature and the state’s environmental interests recently quashed a perfectly reasonable compromise to the question of suction dredge mining along California rivers in a manner that would bring a smile to the most despicable Machiavellian in the world. My guess, and mind you I am not an attorney and this is not advice, is that the same coalition will swat you and your neighbors down like mosquitoes, no pun intended. And after they do they will continue to take over small parts of California’s rivers anyway they can. You are in the vanguard of this effort.

      Get together with your neighbors. You must work as a group. Find the best lawyer you can. Contact and tell them of your problem and see if they can point you in the right direction. They came together from the suction dredge mining double cross.

      I wish you the best of luck. You have a terribly hard fight ahead of you and your rights mean absolutely nothing to those who oppose you. If you have good, new and detailed information send it to me. I’ll write articles on your problem as I did for the suction dredge miners. It may help a little but the powers that be will frame this like they are doing good for everyone, supplying power and recreation facilities. By insisting on your rights you are the problem. I suspect that later, with you and other claim owners out of the way, they will want to clean up this section of the stream, by use of a suction dredge ironically, and then they will keep the gold and other minerals.

      Mind you, I could be totally wrong here. Maybe SMUD will treat you with all the respect you are entitled to. Maybe they will offer you a reasonable settlement for the discomfort and losses you will incur. Maybe, but I doubt it. Keep in touch. Let me know what happens.

      Good luck,

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