Mining rights and guidelines
Here are a few simple guidelines that all recreational gold panners should know and follow.
Mining law. The 1872 Mining Law, although amended several times, remains essentially intact. The law allows a person to locate a mining claim on federal land and to mine that claim. However, when certain lands are withdrawn from mineral entry, no claims can be staked there (although there may be preexisting claims). The four designated areas in this publication have no mining claims. Any other federal lands in the Chugach National Forest not covered by claims are available for recreational panning. Remote areas are less likely to have active mining claims.
- Follow all national forest rules such as camping limits, discharge of firearms, use of trails, etc. These regulations are found in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), with general prohibitions in part 261. Copies are available at Chugach National Forest offices in Anchorage, Girdwood, and Seward. Regulations may or may not be posted.
- Gold pans and manual-feed sluice boxes are allowed year-round in streams listed in this article. Four-inch or smaller suction dredges are allowed in salmon streams from May 15 to July 15 only with a permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
- No hydraulic mining or use of earth moving equipment is allowed without an approved mining plan of operation.
- Work only the active stream channel or unvegetated gravel bars. Do not dig in stream banks!
- Recreational gold panning does not allow you to build structures, cut trees or dig up archaeological historical or paleontological objects. Nor does it give you the right to obstruct others in recreational pursuits.
Rights. As a recreational panner, you do not have the right to keep others from panning. You can walk, fish, hunt, and recreate on a federal mining claim, but you must respect the claimant's equipment and operation. The claim owner has an exclusive right to mine his/her claim. You must have permission from the claimant to pan on his/her claim.
Locating existing claims. Finding out the location of existing claims can be complicated and time consuming. You will need to be able to read topographical maps to establish whether mining claims exist in a particular area or not. Topographical maps for the Kenai Peninsula are available from the U.S. Geological Survey (see For more information section).
If you wish to file a claim, or want to know the location, owners, and status of legal claims, do the following:
- Establish the area in which you are interested. (U.S. Bureau of Mines and U.S. Geological Survey publications identify gold-bearing streams.)
- Locate the area on a topographic map by section, township, and range.
- With this information, check with the Bureau of Land Management which keeps current records for all mining claims on federal lands (see For more information section).
- Mark claim locations on your topographic map, and go out and look for markers in the field.
A placer mining claim is normally 20 acres, generally measuring 660 by 1,320 feet. The long direction of the claim is usually oriented parallel to the stream. Remember, valid claims may exist with no visible markers. If there is an error in the location description, the marker on the ground rules.
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