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Metal Mining Activities

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 on public or private land that discharge wastewater to the land and state waters. This fact sheet includes contact information for local, state and federal agencies in Oregon that may also have requirements related to mining.

700-PM Water Quality General Permit

DEQ renewed the 700-PM Water Quality General Permit in May 2020, updating regulations and requirements. Effective May 13, 2020, the permit prohibits suction dredging in streams that flow from the former Bohemia Mining District and are tributaries to Dorena Lake. The changes come as a result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2019 Willamette Basin Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load. 

The 700-PM permit is a five-year permit that replaces the permit issued in 2018.

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

The 700-PM permit is not for all areas or water bodies in the state. Discharges are allowed by equipment type and size in designated streams. For in-stream, non-motorized mining equipment, such as a hand sluice, rocker box or hand suction device in combination with a hand sluice, there are fewer requirements. There are no registration requirements, fees or reporting requirements for this type of equipment and there are fewer restrictions for permit coverage in designated waters.

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

  • Motorized in stream placer mining, including motorized suction dredges in essential salmon habitat water
  • Motorized suction dredges that exceed 30 horsepower or use suction hoses with inside diameters larger than 4 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
  • Mining discharges in Outstanding Resource Waters of North Fork Smith River and its tributaries.
  • Suction dredge discharges in State Scenic Waterways
  • Suction dredge discharges in streams that flow from the former Bohemia Mining District and are tributaries to Dorena Lake as required by the EPA 2019 Willamette Basin Mercury TMDL
  • Discharges from highbanker and combination highbanker and suction dredge equipment. Miners may convert the combination highbanker-and-suction dredge to a suction dredge, but it must meet the definition of a suction dredge in the permit

There may be additional requirements by other local, state, and federal mining and land use authorities. Permit holders must abide by the most stringent requirement. The 700-PM permit does not provide an exemption from a more stringent local, state or federal requirement.

Registration under the 700PM water quality general permit does not authorize suction dredge mining in areas where mining is prohibited.
A copy of the 700PM water quality general permit and resource materials are available at any DEQ office or by using the links provided below.

​​​​​​​General Industrial NPDES Permit 700-PM 

New permit registration application form

Fee range

  • Please see Tab​le 70G​ for application and annual fees​.

Permit registration renewal application form

  • Not available

Material for review at Oregon Parks and Recreation Department: Oregon Heritage: Archaeological Services web page includes the following:
  • Inadvertent Discovery Plan Template
  • Bulletin 1: Private Lands
  • FAQ: Archaeological Sites on Private Lands
  • Bulletin 3: Public Lands
  • FAQ: Archaeological Sites on Public Lands
  • Preserving the Cultural and Historic Resources of Oregon Brochure
  • Helping Them Home: The Need to Return Artifacts and Sacred Objects to Native American Tribes (video)

Visit DEQ's Metal Mining Activities​ page for more information

​​​​​Permit holders may not operate a gravity or siphon suction dredge with a suction hose larger than 4 inches in Essential Salmon Habitat. Outside Essential Salmon Habitat, they may not operate a gravity or siphon suction dredge with a suction hose larger than 6 inches. In addition to only operating during daylight hours (from sunrise to sunset) suction dredging is allowed only during the in-water wo​rk schedule​ as set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The 700-PM permit does not allow suction dredge mining outside of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's in-water work period.

Wastewater discharges are not 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 303(d) list that applies is list that is in effect Jan. 1 of each year.

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

Placer mining on tribal lands

The 700-PM Water Quality General Permit does not allow suction dredge mining operations to discharge to surface waters on tribal lands. Oregon does not have jurisdiction to regulate surface water discharges on tribal lands; that authority lies with either the tribe or the EPA.

In addition, the 700-PM general permit does not authorize discharges from mining operations into waterways that border 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 700-PM Application and General Permit

Applicants should submit an application at least 30 days 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 700-PM general permit, and for complying with the permit conditions. To register for 700-PM coverage to suction dredge, you must use the Interactive Location Mapping Tool to determine more information about the planned mining location, including:

  • (1) County
  • (2) Township, Range, and Section
  • (3) Latitude and Longitude
  • (4) Name of stream/state water

And whether the mining location is within:

  • (5) Oregon State Scenic Waterways
  • (6) Essential Salmon Habitat
  • (7) Outstanding Resource Water
  • (8) Tribal lands/boundary waters 
  • (9) Water quality limited stream segments 303(d) listed for sedimentation, turbidity, or toxics (except chlorine)
  • (10) One of twelve wilderness areas with limited discharge

Also for mining site locations, you can provide the mining claim name if you have one. This is not required. The Interactive Location Mapping Tool may not help determine who owns the land. Other sources of information may be needed to determine whether the land is public or private, and, if it is public, what type of public land.

Follow the links below to find useful information to help you fill out an application to register under the 700-PM general permit and comply with permit conditions.

Other resources

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

In addition to needing a DEQ permit for mining, activities on federal lands must comply 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 
  • Highbanking or other metal mining activities located on the bank or upland and discharge to a stream
  • Large suction siphon or gravity dredges or mining activities using chemical agents, such as cyanide, flocculants 

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

Applicants should apply for a new permit at least six months before they plan to begin operating. Those applying for a renewal should also allow six months for permit processing. 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 in advance of the date to start operating. DEQ will not process incomplete applications.

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.

Individual NPDES permit application forms and fees for new applicants:

  • Orego​n Administrative Rule 340-075-0075 Permit Fee Schedule - Please see Table 70A for NPDES application fees and Mining Operations in Table 70B for annual fees due with an application submittal. 
  • 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:

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

This WPCF 600 General Permit is for small-scale mining operations and non-chemical ore processors that dispose of wastewater by evaporation and/or seepage. Operations are off-stream and above ordinary high-water levels. Discharge to water is prohibited.
Note: This general permit expired on Jan. 31, 2017, but is administratively continued and will remain in effect for permit holders until a new permit is issued. Permit holders operating under the administratively continued permit are expected to comply with the terms and conditions of that permit. DEQ does not currently have a schedule for renewing or revising this permit. This permit cannot be assigned to new applicants.

​​​​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.

New individual WPCF permit application forms and fees:

Individual WPCF permit renewal forms and fees:

​​​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 highbanker, trommel or powered sluice box. Stormwater may be diverted from mining activities to prevent contact or minimize the volume of contaminated stormwater. Stormwater contacting any mining activity through seepage, evaporation or other means, must be managed on site or an industrial stormwater discharge permit is required.

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

Industrial Stormwater General 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 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 web page.

Construction Stormwater General NPDES 1200-C Permit: DEQ requires a general 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, or culvert) 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.