Geology/Michigan private property metals mining regulations
I would like to know what laws or permits regulate precious metal mining on privately owned land in Michigan. This question applies to both recreational and commercial rules on private land. Thank you for your help. Steve
Your best bet would be to contact someone in the Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals in the Department of Environmental Quality. I suggest John Esch (firstname.lastname@example.org). He is in the Mining section and should be able to help.
I have included the text of a letter I used to send out to prospective collectors. It was put together by a now-retired geologist with the State. It will give you a lot of information but it was done in 2004. I am not aware of any changes in the laws but it would be wise to contact the person above, just in case.
Dear Mineral or Gold Hobbyist
Recently you requested information about mineral collecting and/or gold panning in Michigan.
The following very briefly covers some frequently requested information related to recreational
mineral collecting and gold prospecting in Michigan.
Unlike some Western states, there is no claim staking in Michigan. It is important to obtain
permission from the owner of the land and minerals. Ownership may be private, State, or
Federal. Surface and mineral rights are sometimes severed and all owners would need to be
contacted. Mineral ownership can sometimes only be determined by a county courthouse
search of records for each land parcel involved.
Some recreational mineral collecting and gold panning, with a pan only, is allowed under certain
circumstances on privately-owned surface and mineral lands. Ownership of inland lake and
stream bottoms usually extends from the adjacent owners of the highlands, and is projected to
the center of the lake or stream. Permission of the owner(s) is needed at the location to be
The federal forests we have in Michigan all have professional, prospecting, permitting
procedures for their lands. They do not always own the minerals even though they may own the
surface. Contact the U.S. Forest Headquarters for more information about permission to do
recreational or commercial gold panning and mineral prospecting on these lands.
State of Michigan owned lands also have various mineral ownerships. Professional commercial
mineral prospecting on State-owned mineral lands requires a State-issued Mineral Lease. This
is a fairly involved legal process. Contact our office, Mineral and Land Management Section,
Forest, Mineral and Fire Management, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR),
P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7952 (Phone 517-373-7663), for further details.
There are no regulations specifically allowing recreational mineral collecting or gold panning on
State lands. Thus there currently is no mechanism to legally allow these activities on a casual,
recreational, or hobby level.
Dredging for gold or other minerals requires a dredging permit. This is a requirement, no matter who is the surface or mineral owner of the stream or lake bottom. Both the use of a dredge or a sluice box requires a dredging permit. The purpose of a permit is to limit sedimentation disturbances in water bodies to prevent problems with fish and other biota habitat.
Dredging permits are issued by the Geological and Land Management Division (G&LMD),
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), in Lansing. Their non-refundable
application fee of $50 allows you to apply for a site-specific, two-month permit to use a small
dredge on a specific segment of certain streams. For information, call G&LMD at 517-241-1515.
Specific circumstances may require additional permits. Contact the Environmental Assistance
Division, MDEQ, Lansing, for information and assistance with meeting any MDEQ permit
requirements. The phone number for the Environmental Assistance Center is 1-800-662-9278.
The use of metal detectors to search for minerals also falls under the need for permission of
land and mineral rights owner(s). Use of detectors to locate and remove lost items on public
and private lands such as parks, beaches, etc., is frequently restricted or prohibited. Check with the owner or manager of the property first.
For information about some old gold mines and prospects in Michigan, the G&LMD of the
MDEQ offers several books and bulletins, two of which are:
1)“The Mineralogy of Michigan,” Bulletin 6, by E. Wm. Heinrich, 225+ pages, 1996, sells
for $5, describes many minerals, and lists locations where they have been found.
2)“Gold in Michigan” offers references and photocopies of selected out-of-print
publications of the Michigan Geological Survey Division (GSD). It is available as MGSD
Open-File Report 80-1, includes about 78 pages, and sells for $4.
Both can be ordered from Publication Sales, G&LMD, MDEQ, P.O. Box 30256, Lansing,
Michigan 48909-7756. You may wish to request their current list of publications. Postage
charges are $2 for orders up to $9.99, and $3 for orders $10.00 to $49.99. Make checks
payable to the “State of Michigan”. Include six percent Michigan State Sales Tax for orders to
Remember to allow sufficient time for seeking property and mineral owner’s permission,
obtaining any needed printed materials, and up to 180 days for the permitting process. Good
luck and happy hunting!
Hope this helps.