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Mining FAQs
Dredge Photo by D. Jeff Kroft
Prospecting and Mining in Oregon - Frequently Asked Questions
People often ask Department of State Lands (DSL) staff the following questions about mineral exploration and development activities on state-owned land, including both upland and submerged and submersible parcels. Should you have a question which is not answered here, please contact DSL at 503-986-5200.
May I Explore For Minerals On State-Owed Land?
The types of mineral-related activities you may undertake with or without first receiving authorization from DSL depends on what you intend to do and where. For example, on land where DSL owns both the surface and underlying mineral rights, you may take an occasional small hand-sized sample or geologically map an area without first receiving any Department authorization. However, if you intend to dig holes or trenches, or conduct exploratory drilling, you will first need to contact the Department. In addition, if the surface of the land is owned by someone other than DSL, or under lease to another party, you may need to obtain the permission of the surface owner or lessee before proceeding.
If your activity involves removal or filling materials in any "waters of the state," whether state-owned or not, you will need to contact DSL to determine whether you require a Removal-Fill Permit or other form of authorization. You should also be aware that the exploration for, and mining of selected minerals are prohibited by statute on the state-owned submerged and submersible land within the Territorial Sea.
May I Look For Mineral Specimens On State-Owned Land?
Yes, you may look for, and collect for your own personal use a limited number of small mineral specimens on state-owned land. However, in collecting such specimens, you are not allowed to dig holes or disturb the state-owned land or its resources. Additionally, you are not allowed to trespass on privately-owned property to gain access to the state-owned land. DSL strongly recommends that prior to collecting mineral specimens on state-owned land that you contact the DSL.
What About Semiprecious Stones and Petrified Wood?
You may look for and collect semiprecious stones and petrified wood on state-owned land. However, you must obtain a permit prior to commencing any such exploration or removal activity from DSL if you:
  • Use what you find for commercial purposes, or
  • Remove semiprecious stones or petrified wood having a commercial value of over $500.
As in the case of mineral specimens, when collecting semiprecious stones and petrified wood on state-owned land, you are not allowed to dig holes, disturb the state-owned land or its resources, or trespass on privately-owned property to gain access to the state-owned land.
May I Purchase State-Owned Mineral Rights?
No, as a general rule, the Land Board has established the policy that it will retain all of its mineral interests unless a geologic evaluation reveals no, or extremely limited mineral potential.
Where Do Mineral Royalties Go?
Unless the mineral rights are managed by DSL for another state agency, revenues from the exploration for and development of state-owned mineral resources accrue to the Common School Fund. In instances when DSL manages mineral rights for another state agency, DSL typically receives a management fee for its involvement or a share of the income as prescribed by statute and/or administrative rules. 
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