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GPS Coordinates:

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Guest on GPAA Claims and Leases

Your active GPAA Membership benefits include spouse or significant other and all children under the age of 18 residing within the household.
As a GPAA Member and to preserve your GPAA Membership benefits, you may invite up to 4 guests while you are prospecting on a GPAA claim or lease. Your family members and guest must be accompanied by you as the primary GPAA Member and understand that as a family member or nonmember they cannot return to the site without you.
Your guests are limited to gold panning, or they may assist you in limited prospecting and must help in the federally required reclamation. Guests are not allowed to operate their own equipment or any members additional equipment. 

GPAA Code of Ethics.
GPAA Code of Ethics must be adhered to by all GPAA Member and their guest.
These Code of Ethics have been in place since 1970. Please follow this link to GPAA Code of Ethics.

Prospecting and Mining on Private Lands outside of your GPAA - LDMA Membership must only be done with the express written consent of the landowner. Failure to have permission constitutes trespassing. 


Federal and State Regulations

The Federal agencies BLM and USFS have federal regulations and policies in place for all federally managed public lands.
States are required to meet federal regulations and in cases of proven environmental impact and water quality concerns they may with federal approval exceed federal regulations.  

The GPAA Claims Department is on all federal and state regulations mailings and when we have updated information, the information is included in this section.

It is however essential that members contact the regions federal and state offices prior to prospecting in areas where they are unaware of current regulations. Regulations can change with federal and state delays in informing claim owners.



§ 3809.5 How does BLM define certain terms used in this subpart?

Casual use means activities ordinarily resulting in no or negligible disturbance of the public lands or resources. For example -

(1) Casual use generally includes the collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It may include use of small portable suction dredges. (When allowed by state laws) It also generally includes use of metal detectors, gold spears and other battery-operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals, and hand and battery-operated drywashers. Operators may use motorized vehicles for casual use activities provided the use is consistent with the regulations governing such use (part 8340 of this title), off-road vehicle use designations contained in BLM land-use plans, and the terms of temporary closures ordered by BLM.

(2) Casual use does not include use of mechanized earth-moving equipment, truck-mounted drilling equipment, motorized vehicles in areas when designated as closed to “off-road vehicles” as defined in § 8340.0-5 of this title, chemicals, or explosives. It also does not include “occupancy” as defined in § 3715.0-5 of this title or operations in areas where the cumulative effects of the activities result in more than negligible disturbance.

BLM Casual Use - Can include equipment motor size regulated to LESS THAN 10 Horsepower. This is regulated and defined by each BLM Divisional office and in accordance with state regulations. You must contact the BLM regional or district office for current information regarding Motorized, Mechanical or compounded equipment.

United State Forest Service Lands:
Gold Prospecting & Sluicing on the Forest 

Most of the National Forests in the western states are open to prospecting and mining, including panning and sluicing for gold. The Forest Service does not issue “permits “for mineral-related activities; however, authorization in a plan of operations is needed for some operations. A plan of operations is required for all mining activities that will create a significant disturbance on National Forest System Lands. Gold panning and work with hand tools usually does not require a plan. This is based on the assumption that in most cases significant resource damage will not occur when only hand-held, non-motorized equipment is used.

Check with the District Ranger for specific regulations and guidelines. District office locations may be obtained from the National Forest Supervisor's Offices: 

Please follow this link for specific National Regulations

Understand that regulations change, and it is your responsibility to contact local National Forest administration for current regs in areas you are prospecting.

State offices
including water regulatory, Fish & Game and other state agencies that oversee lands must be contacted to assure that you are prospecting within additional guidelines for public land use.


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