Land claims
Land claims are a legal declaration of desired control over areas of property including bodies of water. The phrase is usually only used with respect to disputed or unresolved land claims. Some types of land claims include aboriginal land claims, Antarctic land claims, and post-colonial land claims.

Land claims is sometimes used as a term when referring to disputed territories like Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 or to refer to the claims of displaced persons.

In the colonial
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 times of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 persons could claim a piece of land for themselves and the claim has different level of merit according to the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

  1. claim without any action on the ground
  2. claim with (movable) property of the claimant on the ground
  3. claim with the claimant visiting the land
  4. claim with claimant living on the land.

Today, claiming land is no longer possible, yet large plots of land with little economical value (e.g., in Alaska) can still be bought for very low prices. Also, in certain parts of the world, land can still be obtained by making productive use of it.

Mining claim (United States)

A mining claim is the claim of the right to extract minerals from a tract of public land. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the practice began with the California gold rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

 of 1849. In the absence of effective government, the miners in each new mining camp made up their own rules, and chose to essentially adopt Mexican mining law then in effect in California. The Mexican law gave the right to mine to the first one to discover the mineral deposit and begin mining it. The area that could be claimed by one person was limited to that which could be mined by a single individual or a small group.

The US system of mining claims is an application of the legal theory of prior appropriation, by which public property is granted to the first one to put it to beneficial use. Other applications of appropriation theory were the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

, which granted public land to farmers, and water rights in the west.

The California miners spread the concept of mining claims to other mining districts all over the western United States. The US Congress legalized the practice in 1866, and amended it in the Mining Act of 1872. All land in the public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

, that is, federal land whose use has not been restricted by the government to some specific purpose, was subject to being claimed. The mining law has been changed numerous times, but still retains some features similar to those settled on by the California 49ers.

The concept was also used in other countries, for example during the Australian gold rushes
Australian gold rushes
The Australian gold rush started in 1851 when prospector Edward Hammond Hargraves claimed the discovery of payable gold near Bathurst, New South Wales, at a site Edward Hargraves called Ophir.Eight months later, gold was found in Victoria...

 which occurred at a similar time starting from the 1850s, and included similar groups of people including miners that migrated from the American gold rushes. The Oriental Claims
Oriental Claims
The Oriental Claims are a former gold mining operation, or claim, located 2 km south of Omeo, Victoria, Australia. The Oriental Claims are named in reference to The Oriental Company which mined in the area from 1876 to 1904, and also in memory of the many Chinese miners that worked the area...

 in Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

 are one example of this.

Staking a claim

Staking a claim involves marking the claim boundaries, typically with wooden posts or stone cairns.

A mining claim always starts out as an unpatented claim. The owner of an unpatented must continue mining or exploration activities on an unpatented claim, or it becomes null. Activities on unpatented claims must be restricted to those necessary to mining. A patented claim is one for which the federal government has issued a patent (deed). To obtain a patent, the owner of a mining claim must prove to the federal government that the claim contains locateable minerals that can be extracted at a profit. A patented claim can be used for any purpose desired by the owner, just like any other real estate.

See also

  • Terra nullius
    Terra nullius
    Terra nullius is a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning "land belonging to no one" , which is used in international law to describe territory which has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign has expressly or implicitly relinquished...

     (No man's land)
  • Guano Islands Act
    Guano Islands Act
    The Guano Islands Act is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856. It enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other...

  • Land rights
    Land rights
    Land law is the form of law that deals with the rights to use, alienate, or exclude others from land. In many jurisdictions, these species of property are referred to as real estate or real property, as distinct from personal property. Land use agreements, including renting, are an important...

  • Land reform
    Land reform
    [Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

  • Extraterrestrial real estate
    Extraterrestrial real estate
    Extraterrestrial real estate is land on other planets or natural satellites or parts of space that is sold either through organizations or by individuals. Ownership of extraterrestrial real estate is not recognised by any authority...

  • Claim club
    Claim club
    Claim clubs, also called Actual Settlers' Associations or Squatters' Clubs, were a nineteenth century phenomenon in the American West. Usually operating within a confined local jurisdiction, these pseudo-governmental entities sought to regulate land sales in places where there was little or no...

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