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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:12 pm 
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Georgia Gold Prospecting Regulations

This material is copyrighted © and may not be reproduced, redistributed,
or republished without written consent from the website / forum owner. We do NOT guarantee the EXACT legal written laws for areas. This is a brief summary. Do your own research.


If you are searching for “gold prospecting regulations” in the state of Georgia you may not have much luck. There’s a reason for this and we will explain… or you will figure it out pretty quickly.
Many states in the U.S. have “public lands” that are covered or regulated by the BLM. Georgia does not. These BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands often give people the right to file a “claim” for mineral rights and work the ground. If a “claim” is not filed they are open for prospecting in many cases.
In GA most of the land is OWNED... by someone via DEED. This means while the land is considered "public", it is in fact owned or was purchased by the state or some form of government at some point in history.

What lands are there in GA?
(The short version)
1- National Forests
2- WMA’s (Wildlife Management Areas)
3- State Parks
4- County and City lands. (owned or under control )
5- Corps of Engineer Land
6- Private Property

Where can I go prospecting on these lands?

Well…. Really on #5 and that’s about it. “Heck… that leaves me nowhere to prospect for gold!”
Now you see why Georgia doesn’t really need to regulate prospecting. The large majority of land is closed to prospecting in GA. If you OWN the land, you can prospect on it. If you get permission from the land owner, you can prospect on it. If you lease the land for prospecting, you can prospect on it. That’s about it.

Let’s get a little deeper into it…

#1 National Forest lands

National Forest lands in GA are “controlled” by the GA DNR. You are allowed to use a pan and a small hand trowel only. No… not even a stream sluice is allowed. No buckets, no nothing…. Got it? Pretty clear. Do keep in mind that if a stream, creek, river, etc are designated as trout streams… nothing is allowed. You may not disturb the stream bed. These lands are HUGE in the North GA, with some areas containing more than 20,000 acres and most are located in the prime gold belt. I know…. life bites sometimes. Material panned must come from stream beds only. Do NOT dig in banks or nearby dry ground. A “bank” is open to interpretation, so better safe than sorry.

#2 WMA’s

WMA’s, Wildlife Management Areas, are “mostly” within national forest in north GA. So… it can be VERY hard to tell when you cross over between the two. NOTHING is allowed on WMA’s, just "basically" hunting and fishing. Again, they are CLOSED to prospecting.

#3 State Parks

Don’t bother. State Parks in GA are closed to all prospecting.

#4 County and City lands.

OK… this gets a “little tricky”. Often these lands do NOT have “published” regulations. However, if you pry deep enough you’ll eventually figure out that the MAJORITY of city and county lands restrict ANY use that is not expressly covered within the written “permissible uses” clauses of their ordinances. If it’s not written, you have to get permission, and that has to go through all the phases of the city / county. (Not happening)
Also, many Corps of Engineer Lands fall within the city’s and county’s areas or control. The Corps will give jurisdiction to the county and again, nothing is permitted. If any problem starts to come up, the city simply restricts the use. Seen that happen twice in GA.

#5 Corps of Engineer Lands

Most Corps of Engineer lands are closed to “prospecting”. This is due them being turned over to the county, city, for governance, or falling into recreational type areas. Some do allow panning but the material panned must come from the water way, and not the banks and surrounding lands. Be VERY careful. They can fine in the $1000’s and take all your equipment. Lake Alltoona is one example where they actually post the rules on their website. Panning only. They also warn that you may NOT trespass on surrounding lands to get to those areas. Again... be very careful on these lands. There are no posted regs as far as what they DO allow... in most cases.

#6 Private Land

So… your best bet is to be nice person and ask land owners for permission. I will warn you that GA has a LONG history of “land pride”. Most land owners do not want any “strangers” on their property. Networking amongst friends and neighbors is a great way to start. People always know “other people”. Ask them to contact them for you or call first and ask if you can drop by. Walking up to someone’s house COLD is not recommended in the north GA area. Land leases are NOT common and mostly range in the $1000’s of dollars. Not the thing for someone wanting a “hobby”.

Property Lines

In the state of GA many properties have creeks, streams, or rivers as their property lines. When this occurs the “center of the waterway” is the property line, in most cases. Yes, over the years this line will move, and so will the property boundary. You are NOT permitted to go past the center line of the creek if you are prospecting with permission from the other side owner.
Some have tried to use the “navigable waterways rules” to overcome this, but they are misinformed and doing harm to our industry / hobby.
This law applies to waters that can carry “powered ships / boats for commerce” and allows for PASSAGE rights only. You are NOT permitted to walk the waterway, and certainly not allowed to “mine minerals” that are owned via mineral rights of the property owner. Know the boundaries of the land you are working.

Restrictions and Regulations (What you can and can’t do.)

You can pan, stream sluice, highbank, and dredge on YOUR land (or private land with permissible land usage from the owner) as long as you don’t do harm to the banks, digging or suction dredging, vegetation, or riparian flow. Recreational prospecting is fairly open in Georgia. (Thanks to most of the land being closed.) If you have a water discharge… such as with a highbanker, the discharged water must fall into the waterway and NOT land on the bank or nearby grounds. Any run off from “near bank” settling pools or direct erosion is illegal and can be heavily fined. So… set up your highbanker at the water’s edge and allow the water to fall directly into the creek or stream. (Just wanted to be clear on that.)
Important note… if you run a large amount of material you should consider moving your equipment from time to time. Why? Your discharge may change the “water’s edge” into a “bank”. Meaning that when you started it was water, now it’s dry ground. Explainable yes, but again, better safer than sorry.

Can I Mine / Dig Up My Own Land?

If you dig up soil / dirt for the purpose of extracting metals or minerals, you are surface mining. If you are surface mining you must be permitted by the state of GA. You must apply for a permit and submit plans, maps, etc. This also includes reclamation plans for when you are done mining. You must also post a “bond” on a per acre basis which is held by the state the entire time you are mining and until they sign off on your reclamation work. This whole process does take time. Water from surface mining must be contained to a collecting pool and not allowed to “run off” in any form. It is HIGHLY advisable that you retain an attorney to help you with the paperwork. It simply makes things go a lot “smoother” in GA. Also the “bond” is about $1200 an acre so spending a small amount for an attorney is well worth it.

“Pay to Play” and Clubs.

There are a few “pay by the day” operations as well as a few clubs. These are the BEST ways to prospect. No worries, you know the rules, and the experience is just like being in the wild. Gold n Gems in Cleveland, GA is one of the best we have found for the daily pay type. Lots of creeks to work, open all year, camping, and a natural environment. The Weekend Gold Miners club has a few properties around and is VERY reasonable to join. However, you must be a MEMBER. Something like $30 a month after the membership fees. Both have websites so just Google them.


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