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Private Property Concerns

Michael J. Bainbridge March 13, 2012 04:26PM
With so many good sites on private property being closed due to trespass and fears of liability these days, I wonder if we could all take a moment to consider the appropriateness of some of the locality info being posted on Mindat. This is not a general comment regarding detailed mineralogical or historical information - or even legal property descriptions for all locations in Mindat that might be on private property. Both the hobby and science of mineralogy do, after all, rely on the sharing of information - and Mindat is an important, impartial resource.

That in mind, I'm not trying to be the Mindat police, and I'm not suggesting that all identifiable property information be pulled from the site. Much of this information is, after all, freely publicly available anyway and there are appropriate disclaimers about the use of such information in place - everything is fully legal and above board, I'm sure. Ethically, however, what concerns me is that I have seen some very specific property descriptions and directions (even "if the gate is locked, go around" in one case), and detailed accounts of collecting being posted where I know for a fact the owner is not aware that this information is being posted online, and in some cases, is specifically opposed to it.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure that everyone who has posted such an account knew that they were on private property and had permission from the landowner to collect - because we all know that it is our moral duty and legal responsibility to determine property status and obtain appropriate permissions first - right? But granting permission on an individual basis, and openly welcoming anyone who read it on the internet are two very different things. Most people aren't interested in managing a tourist attraction. I know we're all very excited to share news of our latest find (which I don't want to discourage) - and you might be well within your rights to do so - but if it would piss off the owner to find out that you posted such details on the internet, should you?

Again, I'm not calling for any radical change to the management of Mindat - I'm just asking all users, as responsible rockhounds, to think twice about how much identifying information we make public about our adventures on private property without asking the owner's permission first. At the very least, please indicate that the site you were on is private, and that you were there with permission, so that people like me who work very hard, both personally and professionally, to negotiate access to these places don't read your post and say, "well, there goes another one".

A few suggestions:

If you know you were trespassing, or didn't have permission to collect, it's probably not a good idea to admit that in a public forum.

If you don't know if the site you were on is public or private, you probably shouldn't have been there in the first place - so please, find out before admitting such a transgression and ruining the chances that anyone might be able to gain access legitimately in the future.

Established precident aside, don't use the property owner's name as the location name unless they're okay with it. I'm aware of instances where they've been tracked down in the phone book and are now receiving many unwelcome phone calls from complete strangers - not what they bargained for by letting you in (we rockhounds can be very persistent).

Even if the owner is okay with you posting about your experiences or their property, detailed directions (including GPS coordinates) that don't include "stop here and ask permission" - also probably not a good idea.

ABOVE ALL: Please respect people's right to, or at least their desire for privacy. When in doubt, er on the side of caution.
Andrew Johns March 13, 2012 09:34PM
Well said Michael..
Alfredo Petrov March 13, 2012 10:05PM
Anyone aware of access instructions to private property being posted here without the owners' permission, or owners' names and contact information posted without their permission, please send a PM to one of the Mindat management team and we can delete that information. Not much we can do without notification about specific cases; the database is far too large now to patrol every page without the help of sharp-eyed users.

What we will not do is to remove entire locality entries themselves, or any associated mineralogical or geological information (as some landowners have demanded in the past) - That is part of the scientific record and the information belongs to everyone, not the property owner.
Steve Cantiello March 13, 2012 11:33PM
HUMMM!Each year I see more and more collecting sites closed,posted or other wise off limits.My concern is that a time is coming where collecting will be done at fee sites only or a mineral shops or shows!I know of a few clubs which have owner ship of a mine or more the one mine.I really believe THIS should be the focus and concern for all rock and mineral clubs.By example there are ways to go about it if we ALL try there is NO reason why this can not be done.Of course I am bias as I am a field collector or rockhound.
I can see the day where only the privileged and wealthy will be able to collect rocks and minerals,and that SUCKS!
I do understand the concern of private property.Michael you have a point there.
When I see another posted sign I see the need for OUR focus to be on mine owner ship or mineral rights through what ever means it would take to obtain that.
A bit off the subject but a point to consider.
Michael J. Bainbridge March 14, 2012 05:05AM
Thanks Alfredo, agreed and good to know. I think all the specific concerns I had have been addressed, I just thought it was worth mentioning as a general point to help a avoid future problems.

Justin Zzyzx March 14, 2012 05:20AM

(You didn't want them anyway...)
Michael J. Bainbridge March 14, 2012 05:25AM
Oooooooooo, JUSTIN!!! I'll get you my pretty.
Scott L. Ritchie March 14, 2012 10:35AM

Every locality page on mindat says: "You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary."

Some of our mining properties have been private land for a 100 years, and regardless of the many miles of posted dirt road and numerous locked gates, we still catch the occasional nitwit going up the mountain to get their (perceived) fair share of the booty.

Obviously each person's story is unique, and people must be treated according to their intentions, and the severity of the trespass. All a property owner can really do is reduce any on site hazards, and increase the signage and security to handle the inevitable stray humanoid - undoubtedly caught up in a moment of mineral induced fantasy.

Kimberley Kipling March 14, 2012 12:16PM
Thank you very much for posting this important issue. As an owner of one of these valued collecting properties,
I wish to add to this subject. Every year I pay insurance and taxes the same as all home owners. However because
I too often find eager rockhounds spending a glorious afternoon un invited I must carry higher amounts of insurance
to protect unwanted strangers that invade my home. Too often I learn of this invasion once the articles are posted online
with pictures and directions on how to trespass to the site. The feelings this leaves me with is the same as if someone
has broken into my home. It leaves me with fear and distrust.

These rockhounds that do come on their own post a hodge podge of incorrect information and their own speculation. They
openly insult the area and its people because we havent made our homes freely accessable for their enjoyment. If so much time can be spent researching an area and its mines then there is no reason why the first most important piece of information ' Ownership" isnt done.

I am so proud to be part of this wonderful place and I do believe these areas should be available for everyone to enjoy and appreciate.
Ask for a tour and you will have an experience like no other. Ask and there is a greater possibility of entering the mines and viewing what has been hiden to all others.

I know it would be a miserable place if we had to see private property signage and fencing around every property in every village town and city.
We know if it isnt our own home or property then it belongs to someone else. I hope you find gems in every stone you turn.

Kim Kipling
David Bernstein March 14, 2012 01:01PM
Scott, it should come as no surprise to you, given my professional background as to what I think of that disclaimer. I've said it before, I'll say it again, in the vernacular, it ain't worth much!

The reality is many people use this web site as a go to guide for tracking down localities, disclaimer be damed. Why not? Many of the locality pages are chock full of descriptions, GPS data and the like. I can't tell you how many people I have encountered in my travels (and my travels have been extensive) who have advised that they tracked down a particular locality using Mindat. I prefer consulting historical reports- in my geographical area, they are in many cases superior to the data present here but when I joined Mindat, the lure of the vertible smorgesboard of info was really quite appealing.

To the extent Michael's general point is to encourage sensativity and common sense on the part of uploaders of locality info. here, here. To the extent that someone may take from his post the need to have uploaders state with specificity how they gained access to a particular site, well that idea would curl my hair more then it already is.

Michael, I note that you were quite diplomatic in describing the problem as you see it. But are your specific objections to perceived inappropriate content on locality pages, contributor articles or both? Regardless, nice post.
Scott L. Ritchie March 14, 2012 05:32PM

I understand your feelings regarding the mindat disclaimer and gps coordinates for certain hidden sites, and you'd be surprised that there are still many localities that I still haven't uploaded here, due to my concerns as well. Alfredo makes a good point about the public domain of scientific data, but we all know certain data can be proprietary. I try to take everything into consideration before uploading to mindat, and maybe others can and should do more of the same, as Michael points out.

In our little area, the state and federal governments published reports that outright encouraged and guided the public to trespass on private lands and remove valuable minerals from the mine dumps, which quickly morphed into hundreds of individuals stealing an incredible amount of valuable minerals and other real property from the legal owners, even underground - to the degree that a cottage industry of 'thieves and liars' developed over the following 60 years, some of whom are currently esteemed managers on mindat, publishers of printed mineralogical magazines, and/or quite successful international mineral dealers (names withheld out of courtesy). ;-)

Justin Zzyzx March 14, 2012 06:48PM
He who dies with the most private property wins!
Stephen Moreton March 14, 2012 07:25PM
Justin Zzyzx Wrote:
> He who dies with the most private property wins!

You can't take it with you!
Colin Robinson March 14, 2012 07:44PM
For the last 45 years or so I've been field collecting in the north of England. During That time I've devoured every scrap of information on the geology, mineralogy and mining history of that area that I could lay my hands on. I've spent hours in county record offices pouring over and copying mine plans in addition to the many hundreds, possibly thousands of field trips I've made.

All this activity has resulted in a vast amount of information held in my head and on a card index system. NONE of it will ever appear on mindat for the simple reason that it is very likely to be abused. There are some very experienced field collectors in this part of the world who have never and will never contribute to an online database. The information we have was hard won and is likely to die with us. I suspect we could easily double the number of locations and recorded species but until we can be sure that no-one will mis-use it stays where it is.

If you really want to collect get off your backside and do the work. Oh, and have a chat with the property owner. You'd be surprised how many actually appreciate a little courtesy.
Rob (The Rock Hunter) Shepard March 14, 2012 07:46PM
I would have to say I agree with Dave on this matter, no matter what disclaimer is put on a Mindat locality page people still have their own agendas. It is the sad state of mineral and rock collecting these days. As time goes on we loose more and more collecting sites. But in the end you have to respect the wishes of the landowner. It is just a sad situation.
David Bernstein March 14, 2012 08:41PM
Scott, I absolutely understand where you are coming from. We have discussed this before but I believe I wasn't "sophisticated" enough to understand the point you sought to make on the scientific value of GPS data as it relates to a locality. I am now but still remain of the belief, as I did when I joined Mindat that GPS data is not for free and unfettered public consumption. There is too much room for abuse regardless of that disclaimer that many seem to wave around like a sword, when it is more like useless used plastic utensil. Like I would not give up the location of a roosting owl or eagle's nest, so to with coordinates. And before anyone blurts out that I'm a hoarder of locality data or a snob who wants to keep the best places for himself, bear in mind that I haven't the foggiest idea how to take a GPS reading or handle the unit my wife so thoughtfully bought me some years ago. Still not convinced? Take a look at how much locality information I have uploaded in my gallery.

However, if there is scientific merit to collecting coordinates, it probably would be a good idea to get it right. I'll go out on a limb and note that between 70 and 80 percent of the coordinates entered in the area that interests me are wrong, very wrong. and not by a couple of miles. How do I know? Well, I know a lot of people who DO know how to use a Garmin and have attempted to track down hundreds of the localities and found that they were way of the mark. In fact, I was recently contacted by someone at a military installation who inquired if I had any idea who came up with the coordinates for a particular locality and how he/she got it so very wrong. Mind you he wasn't eager for me to set the record straight. Sometimes, localities are many many miles or whole counties removed from where it actually lies. To me, someone sitting at a computer terminal 2000 miles from the locality entering data isn't accomplishing a whole lot, despite what the USGS might say in their data base. Likewise, someone with no personal knowledge of the locality taking guesses on a Topographic map isn't excactly adding scientific value to Mindat. And plugging in coordinates that result in a locality appearing forty miles off course, should not be considered accurate, contrary to what one of those esteemed managers told me some time ago.

But I digress from the original point being made. I think. Anyway, I stated my feelings on the issues Michael raised above.
Justin Zzyzx March 14, 2012 09:06PM
I found that exactly ZERO of the MRDS GPS cords were right on my last trip to Quartzsite.
Which, really hindered my plans of staking some claims so I could keep some spots open to rockhounds for as long as I could pay for the claims.
Stuff was just CONFUSING.

I'm always picking the best side of the problem to fall into. I ask permission for access before I hop onto private property, I make it a habit of not entering old mines unless I am with the owner/operator or it is a well known classic locality with no active mining interest. IE, none of the pegmatites to the south are on my list of places to visit. Meh. Of course, you can see my words in action in the first issue of Quarterly I talk about how I went on a WILD collecting trip all because I inquired with someone about land status and the owner. That awesome adventure would have never happened if I didn't inquire. Are you telling me that I should have not inquired because the land owner might be sick and tired of people talking to them?

Private property is certainly a right. Using your property to do nothing but cause a hindrance to access of a classic location is loathsome, as in the Grand Reef mine in AZ, the Nuevo Pegmatite in Southern California and so on, ad nausium. So, sometimes that whole "Go AROUND the gate" isn't a real problem to me.

And like Colin said, good lord. I've done the work. I've done the research. Why am I just going to give it on up to anyone? I've already told the world about TONS of great places to collect rocks, let me keep some of them, and the CORRECT GPS directions, to myself!
Pete Stoeckel March 14, 2012 09:08PM
All this said, rocks and minerals are where you find them. Trespassers beware! Landowners have rights just as we have the right to share information on Mindat. Everyone makes a good point and no one is wrong. Just keep in mind, Mindat didn't break the law when you got caught.... you did. In my area many collecting sites closed due to the fact that people can't be responsible for themselves. Liability has put the fear for God in everyone and for that we all suffer. I would hope that this discussion would serve as a starting point for every one of us to come together to try and reverse the trend of anti-rockhound sentiment…… With some luck our grandchildren can enjoy rocks where we found them. :-)
Holger Klapproth March 14, 2012 10:37PM
There are some countries on this planet which have different trespassing laws that th UK or the US. In Germany for example you have right of way and are able to visit a lot of places on private ground, That does not mean that you are supposed to dig holes there but you are able to get there and pick up minerals. Sadly some collectors have overdone it really and caused damage to landowners resulting in a ban on collecting on some of my most favorite sites. Even worse - on some sites that we have originally discovered. The problem is some people collect not for their collection but to sell. Therefore it is not advisable to disclose some sites. Blame the guys who "rape" collecting sites. The folks from black forest know who I mean.....
Matt Ciranni March 19, 2012 04:16AM
The problem here in Idaho isn't really sites being closed due to private property concerns, although that does happen. The resurgence of gold mining, and development of the Tamarack Resort area have caused many sites to be either re-claimed by miners, or (in a few cases) covered with expensive summer homes. But we are lucky to have such an abundance of public land here, in fact I think a lot of people in this state take that too much for granted.

The big problem for rock hounds here is, numerous sites are being/have been closed due to other reasons, not the least of which is many well-known sites have been so picked over and over-harvested that the supply of collectable material is long since exhausted.
But there are two major problems in Idaho facing rock hounds. The first is sites being closed by beaurocrats, for example the Sawtooth Mountains. This area once had the best crystals and mineral hunting you could imagine. But when it was declared a wilderness area, rock hounding in the Sawtooths instantly became illegal. Now I am all for wilderness areas and protecting our wild spaces, but the downside of wilderness designation is sometimes it is TOO restrictive- as in the case for rock hunting. The second big problem is, often as soon as someone discovers a site with interesting, collectable minerals around here, someone else comes along and puts a claim on it, and the site instanly becomes off limits to rock hounding. This has recently happened to the famous "Beacon Hill Thunder Egg" spot, for example. Sure the site may still technically be public land, but as soon as you pick up even one tiny "Leave'er'ite" pebble, you are guilty of a crime. Thus, back to the original point: there is strong incentive for people around here, when they discover a new unlisted spot with interesting minerals, to keep it a secret, lest someone else come along and put a claim on it, and end any chance of casual rockhounds to find specimens for themselves. I suspect a lot of areas in this state have remained "secret" and unlisted for that reason.
Christian Auer March 19, 2012 12:25PM
Some completely other standpoint, the situation in Austria, Europe.
You are allowed to trespass EVERYWHERE except its strictly forbidden (f.e. a timely limited forest cut). That`s a right we fought and won somewhere in the 70ies last century. Paradise on earth!
Collecting minerals is similiar to collecting mushrooms etc.
Everywhere allowed in acceptable behaviour (picking up stones etc.) except its forbidden by a sign/shield like in National Parks of the Alps.

Besides that it should be a normal behaviour to ask kindly when you see someone and I can`t remember one single incidence within 40 years where I got a "No". More often I got an invitation for comming in for lunch after work, especially in Carinthia!
Alfredo Petrov March 19, 2012 01:06PM
Matt, It seems to me that the obvious solution to your problem in Idaho, where rockhounds keep localities on public land secret because they are worried about someone else staking a claim on it and thereby cutting off access to others, would be for said rockhound and his friends, or their mineral club, to stake the claim, thereby keeping it open, at least for themselves. Mere secrecy doesn't seem a very good way of accomplishing that - What one person can find, others will eventually find too.
Raymond Lasmanis March 19, 2012 05:00PM
Justin, you refer to the MRDS data base and GPS coordinates. In Washington state, when USGS wa setting up the MRDS locations, they were getting the information from state Bulletin 37 and other state publications. There, locations were given by Section (640 acres), Township, and Range and perhaps broken down to quarter section (160 acres). Without more specific information, a spot location was placed in the center of a Section or the center of a quarter section for the mine or prospect. I do not know if this accounts for the disparity of MRDS GPS coordinates of actual sites in other states such as Arizona.
James Christopher March 24, 2012 03:57PM
Wilderness designation does not preclude finding minerals. It does preclude staking claims and significant disturbance of the land. But it is NOT illegal to pick up a rock or even hammer on one in a wilderness area. Mind you, rangers may have their own agenda, but the law is the law, and it says it's allowed.
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