VIRGIN VALLEY BLACK FIRE OPAL MINES & MINING CLAIMS
Precious Black Opal, Crystal Opal, Fire Opal, & other opal types.  VIRGIN VALLEY, NEVADA, USA
 
 
 
 

OPAL CLAIMS LEGAL INFO
A "must-read" before investing in your own opal mine

The following article was written by my son, Christopher Wentzell, on his blog.  It sets forth the legal issues and standards with regard to the opal deposits and mining claims in Virgin Valley.  Reprinted with permission, from "Digging Deeper: American Gem Exploration" Blog, by Christopher Wentzell, April 2012.
CLICK HERE for link to the original post on his blog, or continue reading below:

Saturday, April 7, 2012
Validity of Virgin Valley, Nevada, Opal Mining Claims



          I thought that I would take the time to write about a subject that I have a great deal of experience with, the famed opal deposits of Virgin Valley, Nevada, and the mining claims there, and the relationship of the mining laws pertaining to lode and placer claims.  One of the most important things that a miner and prospector can learn is the mining laws.  Mistakes can cost the loss of a mining claim.  Maybe this post will help clear up much "confusion" on the issue of whether or not the opal deposits in Virgin Valley are lodes or placers.  In analyzing the deposits and how the mining laws pertain to them, I have cited numerous decisions of the Courts and other administrative agencies.  Links (where available) to the caselaws cited are provided after the citation so you can click on them and read this for yourself.  It pays to do your own research and to not always take someone else's advice "as golden," because they might not actually know anything themselves, or may have a bias in saying what they do to mislead you.

           Virgin Valley lies in the northwestern corner of Nevada, southwest of Denio.  Opals were first discovered here as float material, and claims were staked beginning in 1905.  The original claims were for the surface float (alluvial) opal which had weathered out of the in-place deposits.  Between 1918 to 1940, the surface float was exhausted, leaving only the in-place opal bearing deposits.  The precious opal in Virgin Valley is found "in-place" (where it was originally formed and deposited) within a hard, defined and traceable sub-surface horizon or zone of bentonite.  Under the United States Mining laws, a "Placer" mining claim is generally located for alluvial surface deposits containing valuable minerals,such as gold nuggets in a streambed or gravels, which are in a loose state, and are not "in-place."  A "Lode" mining claim, on the other hand, is located for valuable minerals occurring firmly embedded within any zone or deposit which is solid, in-situ, or "in-place."  

          The United States government mineral survey shows that the opal-bearing deposits in Virgin Valley are found within a horizon or zone of  bentonite.  Bentonite has been defined as a mineral and consolidated clay rock derived from volcanic ash.  Above and below the specific opal-producing zone, no commercially valuable deposit of opals are found to exist.  The precious opals occur disseminated in-place throughout the opal bearing horizon or zone.  This was readily apparent to all miners in Virgin Valley since the first discovery and mining of opals there.  The above diagram is for the Royal Peacock Opal Mine, but all in-place opal deposits in the Valley have the same makeup of an opal producing horizon or zone, with unproductive material above and below.

            Here's the meat and potatoes of the whole thing.  Any opals and mineral material found "in-place" (or, "in-situ") within the opal-bearing clay layers are part of  the LODE deposit, which cannot be acquired by placer claims.  A placer mining claim located for a lode deposit is void, under the U.S. Mining laws and decisions of the Nevada Supreme Court, 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals and other Federal Appeals Courts, and the United States Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior, IBLA rulings.  Any vein, lode, zone or belt of mineralized rock lying between boundaries which separate it from the neighboring rock, even if the boundaries are gradational, must be located as a LODE claim under the State and Federal Mining laws and numerous Court decisions defining lode and placer deposits.  (Papke and Davis, 2002, at page 9)>http://www.nbmg.unr.edu/dox/sp6.pdf.   An unpatented placer claim gives NO RIGHTS to known lodes present within its boundary.  Id.   Further, a placer location will NOT sustain a lode discovery, nor will a lode discovery sustain a placer claim.  COLE vs. RALPH, 252 U.S. 286, at 295-96 (U.S. Supreme Court, 1920)>http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=252&invol=286WEBB vs. LUJAN, 960 F.2d 89, at 90-91 footnote 1 (9th Circuit US Court of Appeals, 1992)>http://openjurist.org/960/f2d/89/webb-v-lujan; specific cite here>http://openjurist.org/960/f2d/89/webb-v-lujan#fn1.    Moreover, the location of any lode under the guise of a placer is a fraud and the claim would be void ab initio (or "from the beginning").  The same type of mineral deposit cannot be the basis for both a lode and a placer claim, SILBRICO vs. ORTIZ, 878 F.2d 333, at 336 (10th Circuit US Court of Appeals, 1989) paragraphs 12-15 at: >http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/878/333/166518/.  As held by the United States Supreme Court, "... no right arises from an invalid claim of any kind.  All must conform to the law under which they are initiated; otherwise they work an unlawful private appropriation in derogation of the rights of the public."  CAMERON vs. UNITED STATES, 252 U.S. 450, 460, 40 S.Ct. 410, 412 (1920).  Moreover, invalid placer claims cannot be amended into, nor inure to, lode locations, IN RE PAUL VAILLANT, 90 I.B.L.A. 249, at 253 (U.S. Dept Interior, Board of Land Appeals, 1986)(a Virgin Valley opal claims case)>http://www.oha.doi.gov/IBLA/Ibladecisions/090IBLA/090IBLA249%20VAILLANT,%20%20PAUL%20et%20al.%201-30-1986.pdf, cited in SILBRICO, Supra.  Moreover, in a lode vs placer dispute, the issue is whether the discovery is proper as a lode or as a placer, not which claim was located first.  A presumption giving priority of right against a subsequent locator does not attach to an invalid location.    Especially where the placer claimants knew the form and character of the deposit, and themselves and/or their families located lode claims for the same type of deposit elsewhere in the Valley.  Many claim owners in Virgin Valley, knowingly ignore, disregard and side-step these issues.  When the placers were mined out and they started digging into the hill, and "in-place" deposit, a LODE mining claim was REQUIRED.  Surface rights to the pre-existing placers only contain the right to any surface float and alluvial surface material existing on the date of placer location, not to any material removed, mined or tailings created from mining the in-place lode under the guise of a placer claim, as such would invalidate the placer claim ab initio for fraud.
 If you are digging opals out of the in-place clay deposits in Virgin Valley, it is a LODE.  Any lode claim staked over a  prior improper placer claim will  have seniority, priority and exclusive title and rights to the in-place opal bearing deposit.  It's the law, and the law is the law for a reason.



        Further, anyone having unpatented placer mining claims in Virgin Valley for the in-place opal-bearing deposits, my sincere recommendation to you is, if someone hasn't already filed a lode claim for the opal deposit, you should file a lode claim now to obtain the rights to same before someone else does:

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