Water Quality Permits

This webpage provides information and resources to anyone intending to conduct metal mining operations in Oregon’s streams or rivers. DEQ's fact sheet, Water Quality Permits for Metal Mining Activities, describes all water quality permits required for metal mining/prospecting and ore processing operations that discharge wastewater to the land and state waters on private or public land. This fact sheet includes contact information for local, state and federal agencies in Oregon that may also have requirements related to mining.

Moratorium on motorized placer mining

In 2013, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 838 (described in Oregon Revised Statutes 517.140), finding that motorized mining in and directly adjacent to the beds and banks of Oregon’s rivers and streams can pose significant risks to Oregon’s natural and cultural resources.
 

Based on these concerns, SB 838 imposed a moratorium on motorized mining for gold, silver and other precious metals that goes into effect Jan. 2, 2016 and lasts until Jan. 2, 2021. 

 

The moratorium does not prohibit all motorized placer mining but establishes certain restrictions and prohibitions. It reduces the number of streams open to motorized suction dredge mining. It also prohibits removal or disturbance of vegetation resulting from motorized placer mining activities within 100 yards of most waterways in a manner that may affect water quality. 

 

General Industrial NPDES Permits (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System)

NEW Permit Registration Application Forms
Fee Range
  • Please see Table 70G for application and annual fees.
Permit Registration RENEWAL Application Forms
  • not available
Fee Range
  • No fees required at time of renewal.

 

700-PM General Permit Revision

Effective May 15, 2015

DEQ regulates the discharge of wastewater from suction dredge and in-water, non-motorized mining operations that recover precious metals or minerals from streambed sediments via the 700-PM NPDES general permit.

The 700PM general permit does not provide coverage for these types of mining discharges:

  • suction dredges that exceed 16 horsepower or use suction nozzles with inside diameters larger than four inches in essential salmon habitat water
  • suction dredges that exceed 30 horsepower or use suction hoses with inside diameters larger than six inches outside of essential salmon habitat water
  • suction dredge discharge to waters listed by DEQ as impaired for sedimentation, turbidity or toxics (other than chlorine)
  • mining discharges to water on or adjacent to tribal lands
  • suction dredge discharges in State Scenic Waterways
  • mining outside the wetted perimeter of a stream in essential salmon habitat
  • discharges from highbanker and combination highbanker/suction dredge equipment (you may convert the combination highbanker/suction dredge to a suction dredge, but it must meet definition 15 in the permit.

There may be additional requirements by other local (city, county), state, and federal (BLM, Forest Service, Army Corps) mining and land use authorities (not listed above) that have more stringent requirements than conditions specified in the 700-PM. You must abide by the most stringent requirement and the 700-PM does not exempt your operation from a more stringent requirement.

NOTE: Registration under the 700-PM general permit does not authorize suction dredge mining in areas where mining is prohibited under the moratorium (see Moratorium section above for more information).

A copy of the 700-PM general permit and resource materials are available at any DEQ office or by using the links provided below.

Before mining, suction dredge operators must first register by submitting a complete application and the non-refundable $25 annual fee.

Operators of in-water, non-motorized mining equipment must possess a copy of the 700PM in the field and comply with applicable permit terms but are not required to register (no application needed) or pay a $25 annual fee

(Read permit carefully for all terms and conditions)

Persons assigned to this permit may not operate a suction dredge more than 16 horsepower or with an inside diameter intake nozzle greater than four inches in essential salmon habitat. In addition to only operating during daylight hours (time from sunrise to sunset) suction dredging is allowed only during the in-water work schedule (Timing of In-Water Work to Protect Fish and Wildlife Resources) as set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The 700PM permit does not authorize suction dredge mining outside of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's in-water work period.

Anyone seeking a waiver to the in-water work period must apply for and obtain a site-specific individual permit from DEQ prior to undertaking the mining activity. It typically takes a minimum of six months for DEQ to issue an individual permit due to public notice and review requirements. 

Suction dredging is not allowed in state scenic waterways.  No wastewater discharges are allowed where the visible turbidity plume affects the intake of a drinking water source from any placer mining operation.  Measures must be taken to prevent the spreading of invasive species.

Suction dredges must operate at a distance 500 feet upstream from any stream segment listed as water quality limited for sedimentation, turbidity or toxics other than chlorine. The applicable 303(d) list is the 303(d) list approved or established by EPA that is in effect as of January 1 of each year.

Suction dredge operations are required to keep records and report annually.

Placer Mining on Tribal Lands

Assignment of 700PM general permit coverage does not authorize discharges to surface waters from suction dredge mining operations on tribal lands. The State of Oregon does not have jurisdiction to regulate surface water discharges on tribal lands; that authority lies with either the tribe or the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition, assignment under the 700PM general permit does not authorize discharges from mining operations into waterways that constitute a boundary of a tribal reservation. Mining in these waters would require an individual discharge permit from DEQ to ensure that tribal water quality standards are protected.

Resource Materials for 700PM Application and General Permit

Applicants should submit an application at least 30 days (or more) in advance of the date to start a suction dredging operation.

Follow the links below to find information useful for filling out an application to register under the 700PM general permit, and for complying with the permit conditions. If you apply to register for 700PM coverage to suction dredge, you must use the Interactive Location Mapping Tool (link below) to determine

(1) County;
(2) Township, Range, and Section;
(3) Latitude and Longitude;
(4) name of stream/state water;
(5) Oregon State Scenic Waterways;
(6) Essential Salmon Habitat;
(7) tribal lands/boundary waters;
(8) water quality limited stream segments 303(d) listed for sedimentation, turbidity, or toxics (except chlorine); and
(9) 12 wilderness areas with limited discharge (no visible turbidity allowed) for mining site locations and prevent applications from being returned due to incomplete or inaccurate information.

Also for mining site locations, you can provide the mining claim name (if any but not required). The Interactive Location Mapping Tool may not be suitable to determine land ownership, so you may need to determine whether private or public land and what type of public land from other information sources not provided here. DEQ has improved the Interactive Location Mapping Tool to include moratorium-restricted waters (details provided in Moratorium section above) where motorized suction dredges are prohibited and allowed to mine.

Follow the links below to find information useful for filling out an application to register under the 700PM general permit, and for complying with the permit conditions.

Other Resource Materials

You may also need a general authorization or removal-fill permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands in addition to DEQ's 700PM permit

In addition to needing a DEQ permit for mining activities on federal lands must be conducted in compliance with the DEQ permit and with any additional terms or conditions established by a federal agency. Before undertaking mining activities on federal lands in Oregon, miners should contact the appropriate federal district office to see if there are any restrictions or conditions regarding mining activities or access to areas where mining will take place. Requirements may differ from one district to another.


DEQ requires an individual NPDES permit for metal mining activities with wastewater discharges to Oregon waters and other mining related activities that are not covered under a 700-PM permit.

An individual NPDES permit is required for high bank machines or other metal mining activities located on the bank or upland and discharge to a stream. Large suction dredges (powered or siphon/gravity) or mining activities using chemical agents (such as cyanide, flocculants) also require an individual NPDES permit to discharge to state waters.

An individual permit only applies to a specific operation and location or mining claim.

Applicants should plan on at least six months for permit processing in advance of operating under a new or renewed permit. In addition to the application fee and first year annual fee (when required), applicants must submit a complete individual NPDES permit application at least 180 days (or more) in advance of the date to start operating. Incomplete applications will be returned.

DEQ’s permit administration process requires a public comment period of 35 days and will likely require a public hearing with a minimum of 30 days advance notification. If DEQ determines that additional information or measures are needed, there will be an additional 90 days or more added to the process period.

Individual NPDES permit application forms and fees for new applicants:

  • Please see Table 70A for application fees and "Type B11" and "Type B12" of Table 70B for annual fees due with application submittal. An application must be submitted to Oregon DEQ for coverage under the Water Pollution Control Facilities 600 General Permit. Applicants will receive a signed copy of the permit after DEQ processes the application.
  • ORS 468B.052 ($300) for suction dredges with an inside hose diameter of greater than six inches but not more than eight inches
  • Land Use Compatibility Statement signed by the local land use authority
  • EPA Form 1
  • EPA Form 2D for new industrial process wastewater or any mixture of process wastewater, non process wastewater and/or stormwater

Individual NPDES permit renewal forms and fees (for those with a currently effective individual NPDES permit):

  • There are no fees at the time of renewal unless a major modification of the permit is requested. Please see Table 70A)
  • DEQ NPDES-Renewal Form
  • EPA Form 2C for existing industrial process wastewater or any mixture of process wastewater and/or stormwater

DEQ requires an individual WPCF permit for wastewater management if an owner or operator proposes a metal mining activity that processes more than 10,000 cubic yards of ore per year with no discharge to Oregon waters.

This individual permit only applies to a specific operation and location or mining claim.

Applicants should plan on at least six months for permit processing in advance of operating under a new permit. In addition to the application fee and first year annual fee (when required), applicants must submit an individual NPDES permit application at least 60 days in advance of the date to start operating. In addition to a comprehensive application (returned if incomplete), DEQ’s permit administration process requires a public comment period of 35 days and will likely require a public hearing with a minimum of 30 days advance notice. If DEQ determines that additional information or measures are needed, there will be an additional 90 days or more added to the process period.

New individual WPCF permit application forms and fees:

Existing WPCF permit renewal form and fee:

Metal mining activity owners or operators may need to also register for permit coverage under additional general stormwater discharge permits.

For off-stream activities, miners often utilize all local water resources including stormwater to fill off-stream ponds (engineered impoundments, excavated pits or natural land depressions) to operate the high bank machine, trommel or powered sluice box. Stormwater may be diverted from mining activities to prevent contact or minimize the volume of contaminated stormwater to manage. Stormwater contacting any mining activity must be managed on site (seepage and evaporation) or an industrial stormwater discharge permit is required.

Program topics and current news is on the NPDES Stormwater Discharge Permits webpage.

Industrial Stormwater General NPDES 1200-Z Permit: DEQ requires an application for this permit. The permit covers potential industrial stormwater discharges to Oregon waters from Standard Industrial Classification Code 10 (SIC 10) metal mining operations if the stormwater will contact mining materials and/or waste (such as overburden, raw material, intermediate product or waste products). DEQ requires a stormwater pollution prevention and control plan with applications for 1200-Z permit coverage.

For information, forms and the general permit for industrial stormwater discharges, visit DEQ's NPDES Stormwater Discharge Permits Industrial Activities webpage.

Construction Stormwater General NPDES 1200-C Permit: DEQ requires a general NPDES 1200-C permit application for potential stormwater discharges from construction activities that will disturb one or more acres with potential stormwater runoff to Oregon waters or conveyance systems (such as a catch basin, storm drain, ditch, pipe, culvert, etc.) leading to state surface waters. Construction activities include clearing, grading, excavation and stockpiling. DEQ also requires an erosion and sediment control plan with this permit application.

For information, forms and the general permit for construction stormwater discharges, visit DEQ's NPDES Stormwater Discharge Permits Construction Activities webpage.