February 2016 Review

Each month sees a shift as mining claims on public lands are opened and closed. Where this occurs and to what degree are strong indicators of the trends occurring in the mining industry. Thus, we are launching a monthly report identifying the major trends in mining claims.*

February 2016 trends highlight a generally predictable month with a mild month-over-month uptick in opened claims on public land, an overall yearly decrease in active claims, and a declining rate of opened claims. Nevada, a state that consistently represents almost half of active claims on public land in the United States (47.99%), maintains a relatively static number of active claims, with only ten claims opening and four claims closing in the month of February. The majority of change over the month occurred in moderately active states including California, Utah, and Arizona.  One notable event is the unprecedented spike in opened claims in Butte County, Idaho.

Yearly Overview

While mining has seen a rise in the popular consciousness with successful reality TV shows and activities, the state of claim registration on public land has seen a relatively steady year-over-year decline. 422,427 claims were active in 2012 compared with 357,870 active claims as of the end of February.  Yet, 2015 still remains well above the ten year low of 295,754 active claims in 2005.

in United States Of America
Graph 1: Active Claims By Year
in United States Of America

Mining claim registration on public land continues a slow-down from 2011. After a height of 65,317 claims opened on public land in 2011, only 23,247 claims were opened in 2015. 2012 was the last year to see a margin of more claims opened than closed.  Since then each subsequent year has seen a decline in active mining claims.

Graph 2: Claims Opened & Closed By Year
in United States Of America

February Trends

February 2015 saw a modest increase in active claims month over month while being part of the a consistent decrease in mines, year over year. By the conclusion of February, there were 357,870 active claims. This is is an increase of of 487 active claims compared to the month before but a decrease of 14,420 active claims since February 2015.

Graph 3: Active Claims By Month
in United States Of America

Along with a relative decrease in total active claims between February 2015 and 2016, there is a declining rate in claims opened and closed. Over the last month, 516 claims were opened and 29 were closed.  That is 751 fewer claims opened (1,267) and 79 fewer claims closed (108) compared to February 2015.

in United States Of America
Graph 4: Claims Opened & Closed By Month
in United States Of America

February Trends By State

Individual states have predominantly followed the nation wide trend of improved month-over-month claim numbers but an annual decrease. Nevada, ArizonaWyoming, California, and Utah are the five most active states: possessing the most active claims on public land. Nevada dominates the active mining claim scene, representing 47.99% of the current active claims, almost half all active claims. All five of these top states see an month-over-month increase and only California deviates from a similar annual decrease in active claims.

Chart 1: States With Most Active Claims In February 2016 (Active Claims)
State February 2016
(Active Claims)
January 2016
(Active Claims)
February 2015
(Active Claims)
Nevada 171,737 171,731 184,238
Arizona 41,635 41,591 40,258
Wyoming 38,496 38,495 38,739
California 23,981 23,912 22,903
Utah 18,613 18,597 20,038

The month of February only saw 10 claims opened in Nevada, a relatively small amount relative to the massive number of total active claims.  California, Arizona, and Utah, while representing a more moderate a fraction of overall active claims compared to Nevada, have a much larger number of open claims. Yet, Idaho, a relatively small contender in mining activity on public land, dominates the chart for claims opened in February. This exceptional trend is accounted for by activity in primarily one county. Butte County accounts for 99% of the opened claims in Idaho. (More in the county portion of the trends report.)

Chart 2: Claims Opened In February By State
State Opened Claims Total Active
Idaho 344 16,950
California 77 23,981
Arizona 49 41,635
Utah 23 18,613
Nevada 10 171,737

There are only a few exceptional states that saw an increase in opened claims in February. Not only does Nevada only have 10 claims opened in February but that number is down 747 from the same month last year. This declining rate in opened claims, consistent with the national decline, is reflected in most active states: Arizona is down 181 and California is down 5. While Wyoming does see an improvement, it is only by one claim with a total of two claims opened this February. Utah sees a similarly modest uptick of 7 claims with a total of 23 claims opened.

These are two of only three states that saw and uptick in opened mining claims compared to February 2015 (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming). Four of the remaining states (Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Nebraska) saw no change, the rest saw varying degrees of slowing. Idaho stands out as the only state with a notable increase in opened claims this month.

Chart 3: Change in Claims Opened By State—comparing February 2016 against February 2015
State Change (claims) Total Opened in February
Idaho 246 344
Utah 7 23
Wyoming 1 2

Those states with the most active claims also happen to be those with the most closed claims in the month of February.  This is far from unusual given that these closed claims represent a relatively small fraction of the total active claims. Wyoming is the only state among the top five active states to not also rank in the top five states to have claims closed in February. In it’s place is Washington, which would have ranked 11th among states with the most active claims.  For Washington, its two closed claims in February represents a 0.00072% decrease in claims as opposed to Utah (the next lowest ranked in total active claims in Chart 4) whose seven closed claims represents 0.00038%—almost half. Thus, while 2 closed claims are a small loss overall, it represents one of the greatest decreases for any one state in February.

Chart 4: Claims Closed In February By State
State Closed Claims Opened Claims Total Active
California 8 77 23,981
Utah 7 23 18,613
Arizona 5 49 41,635
Nevada 4 10 171,737
Washington 2 0 2,760

February Trends By County

Along with dominating the overlay state trends for active claims, Nevada, in a country wide breakdown of activity by county, sweeps the top ranked counties for highest total of active claims.  These massively statistically influential counties reenforce how relatively static February has been: the greatest shift that any of these top five counties saw between February and January was a marginal increase of three claims.

Chart 5: Counties with Most Active Claims
County February 2016
(Active Claims)
January 2016
(Active Claims)
February 2015
(Active Claims)
Elko, Nevada 29,004 29,004 30,794
Eureka, Nevada 22,012 22,012 26,566
Lander, Nevada 19,961 19,961 21,957
Humboldt, Nevada 19,672 19,669 20,790
Nye, Nevada 17,739 17,738 17,625

Notable trends in opened claims are found in counties outside of Nevada. Counties in Idaho, California, and Arizona saw a modest acceleration in openings between February 2015 and February 2015.

The case of Butte, Idaho‘s extensive number of claims opened in February (341) is made more notable by the fact that those claims account for 78% of the county’s overall active claims. Ninety-nine point seven percent (340) of these new claims are owned by Idaho Silica Trust LP a business incorporated in January 13, 2016. Until this point, the only other listed Silica deposit listed by the USGS in Butte County, Idaho was the Elbow Quartz prospect which was considered to not be significant.  We will be curious to see if more claims are opened in Butte County come March.

Chart 6: Claims Opened In February By County
County Opened Claims Total Active
Butte, Idaho 341 437
San Bernardino, California 62 7,504
La Paz, Arizona 26 3,117
Tooele, Utah 14 3,661
Yavapai, Arizona 12 5,534


While this report focuses on those states and counties with the greatest amount of active claims or significant change in activity on public land, this is hardly to neglect the extensive activity occurring elsewhere. In concert with the launch of these reports, we have extended our locations pages to include overviews, graphs, and tables of trends on a regional level, from country to county broken down by year and month. For more locally focused reports, complete with graphs and time series tables, Visit any of our listed states below or search for a particular county’s trend report on The Diggings.

View State Trends Reports

*These reports are summarizing mining claims on public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and do not encompass sales or transfers occurring on private land.