Recreational gold mining

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This 156-troy-ounce (4.9 kg) gold nugget, known as the Mojave Nugget, was found by an individual prospector in the Southern California desert using a metal detector.

Recreational gold mining and prospecting has become a popular outdoor recreation in a number of countries, including New Zealand (especially in Otago), Australia, South Africa, Wales (at Dolaucothi and in Gwynedd), in Canada and in the United States especially in western states and California. Recreational mining is often small-scale placer mining but has been challenged for environmental reasons. The disruption of old gold placer deposits risks the reintroduction of post gold rush pollution, including mercury in old mining deposits and mine tailings.


Australia does not prevent the private ownership of any minerals found in the land. At one time if individuals were to discover gold (or any other minerals) in their property, it would belong to the Crown, being the Australian Government and not to private entitlement. Today this is not so, and Individuals can search and retrieve minerals with the acquisition of a miners permit that can be bought from the relevant Mining Department.

The largest nugget ever found was the Welcome Stranger of 2316 troy oz (74 kg).

United Kingdom[edit]

Gold has been mined commercially in Wales (see Welsh gold) and Scotland. In the UK, gold prospecting can only take place with the explicit permission of the riparian owner, and any activities that cause or permit pollution of a watercourse, even re-suspended silt, could result in a criminal prosecution by the Environment Agency. There are locations where gold panning is a popular activity.[1]

United States[edit]

Weekend gold hunters, Gilpin County, Colorado.

Although gold deposits are popularly associated with the western US, gold has widespread occurrence across the country.

In the eastern US, a zone of lode and placer gold deposits extends in the Piedmont region from Alabama to Maryland.[2] North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama have many former gold mines and current prospecting sites. These states were the main source of US gold before the California gold discovery (see Gold mining in the United States). Recreational gold miners have also had success in the northeastern US.[3]

Small amounts of gold have been found in streams draining glacial deposits in the Midwest.

Gold prospecting and mining activities allowed on public lands vary with the agency and the location. Gold pans and shovels are commonly allowed, but sluice boxes and suction dredges may be prohibited in some areas.[4][5] There are public mining areas in many states, and prospecting may allow one to stake a gold placer claim or other type of mining claim in certain areas. Some public lands have been set aside for recreational gold panning.[6][7] Some private land owners also give permission for small-scale gold mining.[8]

The largest true California gold nugget, known as the "Dogtown nugget," weighed 54 troy pounds (20 kg), and was found in Magalia, California. A 195 pound troy (73 kg) mass of gold mixed with quartz was also found. Alaska has many sites for the prospector, both public and private.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Helmsdale (Scotland): Gold panning, retrieved 21 January 2009.
  2. ^ J.T. Pardee and others (1948) Gold deposits of the southern Piedmont, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 213.
  3. ^ C. J. Stevens, The Next Bend in the River: Gold Mining in Maine.
  4. ^ US Army Corps of Engineers: Gold panning policy, Altoona Lake (Georgia), retrieved 20 January 2009.
  5. ^ Chattahoochie-Oconee National Forests (Georgia): Gold panning, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  6. ^ Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources: Gold panning, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  7. ^ Kootenai National Forest (Idaho and Montana): Gold panning, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  8. ^ Boston Mineral Club: Swift River gold panning area (Maine), PDF file, retrieved 20 January 2009.

External links[edit]

New Zealand
United States