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Bureau of Land Management, locatable Minerals - Mining Law Locatable minerals are subject to the General Mining Law of 1872, as amended.


Forest Service allows for multiple uses of National Forest System (NFS) lands. The Forest Service Minerals Policy is to “foster and encourage mineral development on National Forest system lands in an ecologically sound manner”. This applies to gold prospecting for hobby and casual purposes. Prospecting is subject to the provisions of the General Mining Laws of 1872 as amended and the 36 CFR 228 rules and regulations for mining activities on NFS lands. There is no Forest Service permit to cover prospecting; and other mineral activities, however some types of activities require prior notice or authorization. There are three categories of activities; 1. non-surface disturbing activities that do not require any authorization, 2. those activities needing a Plan of Operation (An approved plan of operation is the required authorization); and when unsure whether a plan of operation is needed, submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) which describes your planned activity. The District Ranger will evaluate the NOI and notify you whether a Plan of Operation is needed for your activity, or not. You do not need a permit or other authorization from the Forest Service for:

· Operations which will be limited to the use of vehicles on existing public (open) roads, prospecting and sampling which will not cause significant surface resource damage, and will not remove more than a reasonable amount of mineral deposit for analysis and study. This generally includes searching for and removing small mineral samples and specimens, gold panning, metal detecting, non-motorized hand sluicing, using battery-operated dry washers, and the collecting of mineral samples using hand tools (pick and shovel).

· Operations that, in their totality will not cause surface resource disturbance which is substantially different than that caused by other users of the National Forest who are not required to have authorization (a special use authorization, a contract, or other written authorization).

· Operations using mechanized earth-moving equipment or tree cutting will always require a plan of operation.

The New Mexico Forest Service can be reached at:

USFS Region 3: Southwestern Region

333 Broadway SE

Albuquerque, NM 87102



Prospectors, Gold Panners (dredging not included), and Rock Collectors causing little or no surface disturbance with hand tools only, under 2 cubic yards per year do not require a permit from the state of New Mexico.


As a policy in New Mexico General Permits are reserved for recreational mining and not meant for commercial mining operations.


A Dry General Permit must be obtained from the state of New Mexico’s Mining and Minerals Division if mechanized equipment is used and/or disturbance is over 2 cubic yards of excavation. Permittees holding a General Dry Permit are limited to 25 cubic yards per day, 200 cubic yards per year, and 2 acres of surface disturbance per year.


A Wet General Permit must be obtained from the state of New Mexico’s Mining and Minerals Division for dredging operations that are mechanized and/or create more than 2 cubic yards of disturbance per year. General Wet Permittee holders are limited to 2 cubic yards per day and 100 cubic yards of disturbance per year. General Wet Permittee holders must maintain a distance of 50 yards from other permit holders. All dredging operations are limited to a 2 in. diameter hose. High banking or excavating into stream banks and drilling are not permitted under General Wet Permits. Additionally, a Water Quality Certification from the New Mexico Environment Department is required for General Wet Permits. The Water Quality Certification is conditional upon responsible mining practices that protect and maintain water quality for downstream users which include public water supply, irrigation, high quality cold-water aquatic life, livestock watering, wildlife habitat and primary contact.


General Permit Guidance:


General Permit Applications:


The State of New Mexico can be reached at:


New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Dept.

Mining and Minerals Division

Mining Act Reclamation Program

1220 South St. Francis Drive

Santa Fe, NM 87505

(telephone) 505-476-3400


New Mexico Environment Dept.

Surface Water Quality Bureau

1190 South St. Francis Drive

Santa Fe, NM 87505

(telephone) 505-827-0187