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.  Mineral and gemstone deposits occur as two distinct types and the type of mining claim you file (and rights you obtain) depends upon this. Primary Source (in-situ) deposits are Lodes, while Secondary (alluvial, eroded, or transported) deposits are Placers. 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 blanket horizon or zone of bentonite, also known as a "blanket vein" or "pancake" deposit.  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," having eroded from the source (lode) deposit.  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."

See also, JONES v. PROSPECT MTN TUNNEL CO., 31 P. 642, at 645-646 (Nev.1892)("mineral matter so situated, no matter how deposited, is "in place" within the lode laws). Further, a "Known Lode," is one that is known to have existed on a placer claim prior to the entry on the placer claim for locating a lode.  Known lodes are open to location even after the placer claim has been perfected or even patented. The two types of deposits, lode and placer, are different, and mutually exclusive, RE JACK SWAIN, 137 IBLA 235236, at 241 {#3} (1996), citing, COLE vs RALPH, 1920. Therefore, a deposit is either lode, or placer, but cannot be both.

In the photo above, you can see the opal layer being dug below the bottom of the cream/white colored ash fall tuff and volcaniclastic layer. The host rock and opal-bearing zone is in-place, and well-defined; once found, this zone is followed as a "lead," the source word for LODE. This is basically the same for every in-place opal deposit and mine in Virgin Valley. Glen Hodson shows the same in-place formation and opal bearing zone at the Rainbow Ridge Mine in the video below:

          The United States government mineral survey above shows that the opal-bearing deposits in Virgin Valley are found within a horizon or zone of  bentonite.  Bentonite has been defined as an earthy 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.  Once this blanket zone, bed or horizon is found, it is followed in all directions as a "lead". 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. "Because of it's brittleness and low density, opal does NOT form economic placer deposits." See, The Geology of Gems by Eugenii Ya Kievlenko at page 124 (2003).  "With the exception of some Brazilian material, gem opal is rarely found in alluvial gemstone placers, but is instead mined directly from its host rock." See, OPAL: The Phenomenal Gemstone, at page 11 (various contributors, Lithographie LLC 2007). "Alluvial opal deposits are rare and lie immediately on in situ deposits because opal cannot survive movement, as such, Placer opal deposits are unheard of." As to the legalities, 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. A vein or lode is mineral bearing rock or other earthy matter in place, see, WEBB vs AMERICAN ASPHALTUM MIN. CO., 157 Fed. 203, at 204 (___Cir.19__). The terms "bed", "seam," "horizon", "blanket deposit," "bedded," and "zone" are all synonymous with a VEIN OR LODE. 58 CJS Mines & Minerals ___. Such horizontal blanket deposits are JUDICIALLY DETERMINED TO BE LODES. JIM BUTLER TONOPAH MIN. Co. vs. WEST END C. MIN CO., 39 Nev. 375, at 413 (Nev.1916). "A placer location is not a location of lodes or veins underneath the surface, but is simply a claim of a tract or parcel of ground for the sake of loose deposits of mineral upon or near the surface." CLIPPER MINING CO v. ELI MINING CO., 194 U.S. 220 at 228 (US Supreme Court 1904).  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 of "MINING CLAIM PROCEDURES FOR NEVADA PROSPECTORS AND MINERS) .   Horizontal blanket or "pancake" deposits which are "in-place" are lodes, not placers. BOWEN ESTATE, 38 IBLA 390 at 398-99, 400 (1979); SAN FRANCISCO CHEM CO. vs DUFFIELD, 205 F. 480 at 481-482 (9th Cir.1914); DUFFIELD VS SAN FRANCISCO CO, 201 F. 830 (--th Cir.191__)(in-place horizontal deposits are lodes; location of lode mine as placer void). Blanket deposits must be located as lodes, not placers (Duffield, Iron Silver, Mike & Starr, and numerous other cases), (19__ p._). 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);  see also WEBB vs. LUJAN, 960 F.2d 89, at 90-91 footnote 1 (9th Circuit US Court of Appeals, 1992).    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) at paragraphs 12-15.  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)>, 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 in a lode vs placer dispute, as priority of time (which claim was located first) is not the issue, (GILMORE CITE HERE) .   This is especially true 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 and over their own placer claims for the same type of deposit.  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.  The placer claims did not gain priority over the known lode.  Likewise, as shown below, Placer claims cannot be staked over existing valid lode claims, and any such claim is void ab initio both for trespass and due to the exclusive nature of the lode claim.  Nevada law specifically recognizes lode claims located within pre-existing placers , PUETT vs. HARVEY ________ (Nev.193__).

     Generally speaking, bedded or layered deposits are normally staked as placers IF the valuable mineral itself is the sole bedded mineral (ie, building stone, calcium carbonate, etc).  However, this does not apply when the valuable mineral occurs within and inside of the bedded deposit, then it is a lode, and the law is very clear and well-settled on this.  This applies to Sedimentary rocks and horizontal bedded deposits (DUGGAN, MIKE & STAR MINING, DUFFIELD, BOWEN, and a plethora of other cases).

If you have, or are buying, an opal mining claim in Nevada's Virgin Valley, and the opal is found in-place in the clay within a defined zone, MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE OR ARE BUYING A LODE CLAIM, because a placer claim has no rights to the lode deposit, and someone else can stake it.  LET ME REPEAT THIS: 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:       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 and all Known Lodes.  It's the law, and the law is the law for a reason.  Anyone who tells you different in Virgin Valley, including John Church of Swordfish Mining Opal, is blowing smoke in your face to push his/their own personal agenda.  PERIOD.   THE LAW IS THE LAW.

One of the biggest problems with this issue is MISinformation which is false that is spread by people who (1) don't know better, or (2) are deliberately putting bad information out to deceive you to spread their personal agenda.  The greatest of these has been John Church of Swordfish Mining Virgin Valley Opal.  John Church KNOWS all of this, but will lie and manipulate to get his way. He KNOWS the different rights and basics between lode and placer, and he cannot argue otherwise in a court of law, as according to HIS OWN STATEMENT:

In the 2000's John Church told everyone that there was "no difference in the eyes of the law between a lode and a placer".  This was to smokescreen to cover up or avoid that his "family's" claims were lodes but improperly located as placers.  After our first round, he then changed his tune to say that "Well, both have been given patents so both types of claims can always be located (for the same type of deposit)....  WRONG AGAIN......   However, after having to school him in BASIC mining rights after slandering me repeatedly, issues that everyone should know before getting involved in mining, John Church KNOWS the difference between lode and placer rights. SEE HIS OWN STATEMENT ABOVE. He will try to delete it but we have saved copies with the hyperlinks which can be obtained from Facebook archives in legal proceedings. He will argue/lie and manipulate the facts BUT IMPOSSIBLE TO DENY NOW  WHEN HE SAID IT HIMSELF. One small mistake though, a valid lode claim gives you the right to the lode AND all of the surface (including placer deposits) within the lode location.  Is that the type of person you want to trust with mining claims?

In the above NOTARIZED "Deed" John Church ADMITS there are LODES in the placer claims, thus sealing the FACT in concrete evidence by way of his notarized attempted fraudulent conveyance. An ADMISSION as to the LODES (LODE is synonomous with "VEIN"), but a conveyance of nothing, and likely, evidence to WIPE OUT THE PLACER CLAIMS. This "deed" is an attempted fraud to transfer the lodes which belong to my father. It does not pass the lodes/veins, and to the extent it tries, it extinquished the placer claims entirely based on the caselaw above. GOOD WORK JOHN YOU DID IT !!!

John Church's (and I presume other people associated with him) last argument trying to wiggle around the above is that both lode and placer claims have been patented in Virgin Valley for the same deposit, so he makes the false assumption that you can stake either type of claim with validity. SUCH IS NOT THE LAW. There are 5 patented mines in Virgin Valley (1 patented as placer, the others all as lodes):

  • 1. RAINBOW RIDGE, 1929 & 1930 (placer)(Patent EXCLUDED KNOWN LODES)(See, next photo below);

  • 2. ROYAL PEACOCK, 1980 (LODE);

  • 3. BONANZA (LODE)(previously HODSONS placers that were overstaked by HODSON himself with Lodes;

  • 4. REEDS (LODE) (1980)

  • 5. BIRDLEBOUGHS (LODE)(1992)(previously placers that were overstaked by LODES).

ABOVE:  The Patent to the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine placers. NOTE THE YELLOW HIGHLIGHTED PART. Any LODES known to exist were EXCLUDED from the patent. This is because you cannot get a known lode by having a placer claim.

ABOVE: original (known) LODE location for the Rincon Belle LODE at RAINBOW RIDGE predating the placer patents

The land department (predecessor to BLM) regularly made mistakes in issuing patents for the same type of deposit in the early days as both lode and placer claims; this normally happened because there were no adverse suits or where the BLM/Land Department allowed the wrong type of claim to proceed to patent.

However, If a lode was known, it did not need to adverse. BY LAW A KNOWN LODE IS STATUTORILY EXCLUDED from a placer patent and does not pass thereby. There were no laws requiring a known lode to adverse a placer application, even if  the same type of deposit was located by placer and lode.  Any rule saying a known lode must adverse a placer patent is contrary to the plain language of the Statute.  Despite these facts, it does not excuse compliance with the law then nor at the present time. It is NOT justifiable or legal to base the argument that "either type of claim will work for the same type of deposit because patents have been given to both in the past", as the LAW dictates what type of claim is required (IN PLACE is LODE; anything not in-place is placer; not to mention that known lodes are excluded from placer patents by statute). Mining District custom cannot form a basis to stake either type of claim for the deposit when such custom is contrary to the Statutes and caselaw. Such custom is void and no reliance can be given on past practice for violation of the statute as in-place deposits must be staked as lodes per the statute which cannot be changed by agency regulation, past act, or mining custom in conflict with the plain language of the statute. Mining Custom CANNOT conflict with the statute defining rock in place (30 USC___) or the decisions thereunder saying that rock or other earthy matter in-place is a lode because the custom would violate those laws. Placer patents do NOT convey lodes known to exist on the date of the placer patent application, and they remain open to location. The statute is plain and clear, and known to everyone who is involved with mining. All Virgin Valley opal miners realized this in the late 1970s after an article discussing this appeared in a national magazine. Hodson himself overstaked his own Virgin Opal placer as the Bonanza Opal Lodes and patented them as lodes. All of the Virgin Valley miners who went to patent in the 70's-90's changed to LODES. Hodson also staked the Rincon Belle Extension LODE as an extension of the KNOWN LODES in the Rainbow Ridge placers in the 1990s. I did not make this up, it has been going on in Virgin Valley since the first claims were put in and Lockheed made the wrong choice of relocating as placers (they were cheaper to patent) for the Rainbow Ridge Mining Company and everyone followed suite without checking THE LAWS.

Lockheed KNEW that the deposit was a subsurface BLANKET deposit because she stated in her placer location notice that the "Deposit is Blanket" on behalf of the Rainbow Ridge Mining Company:

As such, the lodes were KNOWN to exist and could not be conveyed by placer patent. Not to mention that economic opal placer deposits DO NOT EXIST (except for one deposit in Brazil) because opals are too fragile to survive exposure and mechanical movement. Thus, there is only one outcome:

1. In-place opal-bearing deposits are LODES, and not subject to placer location. If staked, located or patented as placers, they can be claimed by lodes, as the lodes were known and excluded therefrom.

There is no way around it.

All content copyright by Christopher Wentzell, April 11, 2012 to present; updated 2019 & 2020. NO COPYING OR REPRODUCTION ALLOWED. I am NOT an attorney and am providing this information as an experienced Miner.  I did study the law for 15 years and was employed by the Nevada Department of Corrections as an Inmate Legal Assistant / Law Clerk for some time.  I KNOW what I am talking about.  Comments or questions are welcomed, please contact me HERE.

*** JANUARY 2020 UPDATE: These legal issues (and more) are planned to be litigated in 2020 to finally prove everything and more that I have been saying all along. I am NOT doing this for revenge or to be mean. John Says that I am doing this to "undo 100 years of mining law" and to steal mines. That is NOT true. I am doing this to ENFORCE the 100+ years of mining law and to get peace and to bring some lawful order to the claims in Virgin Valley. Recent events in the Valley in September 2019 proved that I cannot be there in peace and that other people will be falsely accused, unless I prove this. If I am taking something, it is something that these people NEVER OWNED, which they had knowledge of and which I will prove.  Why do you think they hate me so much?  BECAUSE I SPEAK THE TRUTH.  So that is what I am doing.

*** SEPTEMBER 2020 UPDATE:  I have been proceeding on these issues and have made some progress.  The BLM recently denied my known lode claims at Rainbow Ridge and the IBLA denied my appeal, essentially stating the only thing I had not shown was that the lodes were known within the patented grounds prior to 1927 and that I failed to show any valuable opals came from the underground workings.  They failed, however, to look at all the evidence submitted.  (The Roebling and many other opals came out of those underground tunnels which I documented and which was well known).  I will be proceeding in the federal courts next and I believe that it is only a matter of time until the Courts agree with everything I have said, but probably at the Appellate levels as you rarely get relief in the first level of court review.  I will keep you posted here.

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VIRGIN VALLEY OPAL NEVADA OPAL MINES, home of the world-famous Nevada Black Fire Opal and source of the world's finest opal specimens and collector opal gems.  Several mines are open to rockhounds for fee digging of  precious black, crystal, fire, conk, wood, limb cast, and other opal types. Opal Gem Mines & Mining Claims for sale.  Information about the Royal Peacock, Rainbow Ridge and Bonanza Opal Mines Fee Digs and the Virgin Valley Opal and Mines.  Information about the other mines including Kokopelli Opal Mine, Opal Negra Mine,  and John Church Swordfish Mining Virgin Valley Opal.