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Recreational Placer Mining

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A MORATORIUM ON MOTORIZED PLACER MINING WENT INTO EFFECT JANUARY 2, 2016.

In 2013, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 838, 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 resources (e.g. fish and wildlife, water quality, etc.) and cultural resources (e.g. areas of cultuiral significance to Indian tribes, historic artifacts, etc.).  Based on these concerns, SB 838 imposed a moratorium on motorized mining for gold, silver and other precious metals that went into effect on January 2, 2016 and lasts until January 2, 2021. 

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

For more information on the moratorium, please refer to the Frequently Asked QuestionsTo view a map of the moratorium area click here Moratorium Map (the map is still under development; check back soon).

2016 PLACER MINING RULES

To comply with the moratorium, the Department of State Lands has revised the General Authorization for Recreational Placer Mining.  The Department filed a temporary rule that took effect January 2, 2016. The rule clarifies the process for determining eligibility for the general authorization and removes certain limitations on placer mining that were established for the period ending January 2, 2016.  The agency will be conducting permanent rulemaking and taking public comment starting in March or April 2016. The permanent rule will go into effect no more than 180 days from the date of the rule filing.  If any new legislation results from the 2016 legislative session that affects how placer mining is regulated, the permanent rules will address these changes.

To review the Temporary Rule:  Placer Mining Tempory Administrative Rule​ (OAR 141-089-0820).

WHEN IS THE 2016 GENERAL AUTHORIZATION NEEDED?

The 2016 General Authorization (GA) is needed only in Essential Indigenous Anadromous Salmonid Habitat (ESH) outside of the moratorium areas.  To determine which stream segments are eligible for the Placer Mining GA, please go to the moratorium map (currently unavailable—check back in early January 2016)).  These include only the ESH segments that extend below the lowest extent of the spawning habitat in any river or tributary.  There is no prohibition on placer mining in upstream segments that do not provide fish passage due to naturally occurring or lawfully placed barriers.  An authorization from DSL is not required in these areas because there is a blanket 50 cubic yard exemption that applies to all activities, including mining, in non-ESH streams

small-scale placer mining
The Department of State Lands regulates recreational placer mining through two types of removal-fill permits: General Authorizations (GAs) and Individual Permits (IPs).
 
Non-Motorized Prospecting is exempt. Prospecting means to explore for samples of gold, silver and other precious minerals using non-motorized methods. Prospectors are limited to removing less than one cubic yard of material from within the bed or wet perimeter of any single State Scenic Waterway or Essential Salmon Habitat stream annually, and less than 50 cubic yards on other waters. Prospecting does not require a permit from DSL. Prospecting is not allowed at any site where fish eggs are present.
 
GENERAL AUTHORIZATIONS
 
DSL has revised and simplified the GA application process for disturbing less than 25 cubic yards per year within ESH streams. You may apply for and receive a placer mining authorization online: www.statelandsonline.com.  Activities under this general authorization are not allowed in Oregon Scenic Waterways.
 
A simplified paper authorization also is available online. Fill out the top half, send it to DSL to review and we will return it with an approval signature if the application is eligible. 
 
You must submit an annual report by February 28 to be eligible to apply for a recreational placer mining GA the following year.
 
INDIVIDUAL PERMITS
 
An Individual Permit (IP) is required for placer mining activities when:
  • Activities will disturb 25 cubic yards or more in ESH streams.
  • Activities will disturb 50 cubic yards or more in non-ESH streams.
  • Applicants plan to operate a large suction dredge with a hose intake greater than four inches in diameter.
  • Applicants plan to recreationally placer mine in a SSW. Be aware that suction dredging is not allowed in scenic waterways, even under an individual permit.
IP applications are available online - use the Joint Permit Application form.
 
RESTRICTIONS
 
Some waterways have been closed to recreational mining by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Others are closed or their use is limited by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because of water quality problems.
 
GAs for recreational placer mining cannot be used on State Scenic Waterways. An Individual Removal-Fill Permit is required, and a written form must be submitted.
 
LANDOWNER PERMISSION
 
When conducting recreational placer mining, be sure you can legally pan, dredge or sluice on the waterway. Check with the owner to be sure you can be there, even on publicly owned land. Remember that it is illegal to cross privately owned land without first obtaining the owner’s permission.
 
Information about which Oregon waterways are state-owned and available for prospecting and recreational placer mining is on the DSL website. Publications also are available.
 
You may also want to contact federal landowning agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for information concerning streams on federal land.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
 

 
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