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Data Series 1004

Historical Files from Federal Government Mineral Exploration-Assistance Programs, 1950 to 1974








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AZ / CA / CO / ID

MT / NM / NV / OR

UT / WA / WY

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What Is a Docket?

The information collected about a mining property under the various programs was compiled into dockets. A Docket is a uniquely numbered collection of material (application, contract, correspondence, maps, reports, results) about a property for which an individual/company applied for exploration assistance from the Federal Government.

What Kind of Information Might be Found in a Docket?

Information found in dockets describe where mineral deposits were examined, what was found, and whether it was mined. Property and proposed work descriptions together with geologic and analytical information on the target to be explored were submitted with the initial application. Such information commonly was accompanied by unpublished data, supporting technical reports, or production records on the property. Operators of active exploration contracts were obligated by contract terms to submit monthly progress reports that described work that had been completed.
Exploration contracts also obligated contract operators to submit final reports on completed projects. These final reports described exploration work that was done, costs, problems, and findings. The U.S. Geological Survey-U.S. Bureau of Mines (USGS-USBM; after 1965 USGS only) field team wrote application reports that covered initial field investigation of the proposed exploration project, interim reports that covered field investigations of active exploration projects, and final reports that covered accomplishments and findings of completed contracts.

How Much Information is in a Docket?

The amount of information contained in a docket varies. Some requests were denied at the initial application stage, and may consist of just a few pages of correspondence. File sizes for these scans are generally less than 1 megabyte (MB).
Requests for assistance that achieved contract status may consist of thousands of pages including correspondence, reports, surface/underground/drill core maps, assay results, contracts, and royalty payments. File sizes for these scans can be over 500 MB. The downloadable file size for the majority of records is less than 50 MB. The table below shows numbers of dockets in the Western United States that received contracts. In general, these dockets contain more information than those applications that were denied or did not achieve contract status.

(and postal abbreviation)

Total no. of dockets

Total number of dockets
that received contracts

Alaska (AK)



Arizona (AZ)



California (CA)



Colorado (CO)



Idaho (ID)



Montana (MT)



Nevada (NV)



Oregon (OR)



Utah (UT)



Washington (WA)



Wyoming WY




Quality and quantity of applicant information varied. Some prospectors or operators of small mines provided very little technical information, whereas applications from larger mining companies that had professional technical staffs generally included concise descriptions of the proposed exploration work, with accompanying reports, illustrations, and supporting data.

Field Team Application Reports

A field team application report was based on a field examination of the applicant’s property and proposed exploration plan. Principal attention was devoted to the geology of the proposed exploration target and to whether the proposed work had a reasonable chance of resulting in a significant discovery. The applicant’s maps, illustrative material, and supporting documents were examined at the proposed project site. If maps of the applicant were found to be inadequate, new maps or other illustrative material commonly were prepared by the field team. Samples of mineralized structures were taken and assayed to check sample values reported by the applicant. The location of proposed work, with respect to existing mine workings and to mining claim or property boundaries was examined as were documents pertaining to the applicant’s rights to the property. The type of proposed exploration work, estimated costs, time schedule of proposed work, equipment to be used, and operating experience of the applicant or the applicant’s supervisor or representative were reviewed. The proposed work was carefully studied to see if it presented a logical way of exploring the mineralized target. Modifications to the proposed work often were discussed with the applicant and commonly were adopted by him.

The field team application report, in effect, evaluated the applicant’s proposal and the geologic probability of the proposed work resulting in a significant discovery. It provided a basis for the National Headquarters, Department of the Interior, Washington D.C., decision on whether to approve or deny an application. For applications that subsequently were denied, the field team application report commonly constitutes the most comprehensive source of technical information on the concerned property in the Federal Government files. 

Exploration Contract

An approved application usually resulted in a negotiated exploration contract between the Federal Government and the applicant. The contract obligated the contractor to a monthly progress report and to a final report.

Contract Operator Reports

Monthly Progress Reports

The monthly progress report described exploration work accomplished and costs incurred during the reporting period. Payment to the operator, for the government’s share of exploration costs incurred during the reporting period, was based on the monthly progress reports, which usually were brief and factual. Occasionally, the operator would request an amendment to the contract and would use the monthly progress report to justify the request. For example, the exploration work might have uncovered evidence that indicated proposed work in the target area should be changed, in which case the contract operator would use the monthly progress report, along with accompanying maps or geologic illustrations, to justify a requested contract amendment. In such instances, the monthly progress report might constitute the only documented information used to validate an amended change in the exploration project.

Final Report

The final report on a completed exploration contract reviewed exploration accomplishments, problems encountered, findings, and costs. It commonly contained maps, geologic sketches, and other applicable information to illustrate what had been accomplished and found. In instances where a significant mineral discovery was made, the report commonly presented detailed illustrations and analytical data to substantiate estimates of the tonnage and grade of mineralized material that had been found. A final report from the operator of a successful contract might be extensive and contain a wealth of technical information, whereas the final report on an unsuccessful contract commonly was brief and non-informative.

Field Team Reports

Interim Report

Interim reports by the USGS-USBM field team, and, after 1965, by the USGS, were based on routine field investigations of a property being explored under an exploration contract. The principal purpose of these investigations was to see that exploration work was being done in conformance to contract specifications. Other reasons for interim investigations included geologic examination of exploration work findings and discussions with the contract operator regarding payment of the Government’s share of exploration costs for a particular reporting period or on an amendment to the contract, which the operator may have proposed. Interim reports were brief but some, particularly those that concerned a proposed amendment to an exploration contract, often contained assay information, geologic sketches, descriptions of the exploration findings, and reasons that supported or cautioned against the operator’s proposed amendment.

Final Report

Final reports by the USGS-USBM Field Team, and after 1965 by the USGS only, described and summarized accomplishments of the exploration contract. The report reviewed the geologic setting of the deposit, geologic structures that controlled the ore body, the mineralogy, and alteration features of the deposit or associated wall rock. It presented information on tonnage and grade of discovered mineralized material, using the contract operator’s data, where acceptable, otherwise it presented Field Team calculations, based on contract findings. A final report included maps, geologic illustrations, sample and assay data, and other supporting information. It discussed geologic guides to ore, where they had been determined, and described additional targets that warranted exploration, should the exploration work have identified such targets. The report included descriptions of completed work, a summary of costs, and a technical evaluation of the project. It recommended a Certification of Possible Production when appropriate or noted the existence of an already declared royalty obligation, should one have been declared previously. Maps showing location of the exploration work with respect to boundaries of the obligated property were included. Also included were reasons and recommendations concerning whether the Government should participate in the funding of further exploration work at the property, should an application for such funding be submitted. The field team final report was comprehensive and contained most of the available compiled information on the explored deposit. For most exploration contracts, the field team final report was the most informative document in the docket file of a contract.

History of the Dockets

All DMA, DMEA, and OME files, covering the entire United States, and previously stored at Suitland, Maryland, were transferred to the Spokane, Washington, office of the U. S. Geological Survey in 1993. Also, DMA, DMEA, and OME files previously held at the USGS National Center at Reston, Virginia, and those formerly held at USGS field offices at Denver, Colorado, Menlo Park, California, and Knoxville, Tennessee, were transferred to Spokane. 

An unknown number of dockets previously held at U.S. Bureau of Mines field offices in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington were relocated to Denver, Colorado, where, on termination of the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1995, the files were placed in the Denver Records Center Archives. Dockets formerly held by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, as were those formerly held at different USGS field offices, are essentially duplicates of the Suitland, Maryland, files.

Basic data from each file was entered into a computerized database that allowed ready identification and storage location of each file. In 2009, funding for data rescue was secured, and the entire collection was scanned. In 2015 all dockets were returned to the National Archives and Records Administration storage facility in Seattle, Washington.

Docket Scans

The entire collection of dockets was scanned using optical character recognition (OCR), when possible, and converted into Portable Document Format (.pdf) files that require Adobe Acrobat Reader DC for viewing. The file size of a scanned docket varies from less than 1 MB to 500 MB, based on the amount of information contained in the original docket and how many (if any) oversized maps are included in the scan.

Scan capture resolution ranges from 600–1,200 dpi depending on original document quality. Oversized maps were scanned at higher resolutions. Original dockets are composed of vintage 1950–1970 era paper, carbon-paper copies, mimeograph copies, linen, mylar, and other fragile and sometimes poor quality media. Overall, most all documents are clear and legible. Scans include all docket material, including hand-written notes and oversized maps that may have been hand drawn and colored (not OCR captured).

How do I get a scan of a docket?

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Page Last Modified: Monday, 28-Nov-2016 20:50:49 EST