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Gold and Fish:
Mineral Prospecting & Placer Mining Rules

For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions
 

Download a PDF version of the Gold and Fish Pamphlet

 

Download:
Gold and Fish Pamphlet: Rules for Mineral Prospecting and Placer Mining
April 2, 2009 Revision

Application for Ocean Beach Mineral Prospecting Hydraulic Project Approval

 

Download:
Informational flyer on mineral prospecting in Washington

Small-Scale Mineral
Prospecting White Paper
December 2006

New for 2013 - Simplified HPA Applications
You may be eligible to use the Department’s new simplified application for HPA’s. If you are interested in applying for a HPA for road maintenance work, mineral prospecting, beaver dam modification, repositioning or removal of large wood, dock maintenance/repair, scientific instrument installation, trenchless conduit (utility) crossing, or fish screen maintenance or replacement, and your project does not require review under a Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 Permit, you may be eligible to use the simplified HPA application. Learn more >>

The 2009 Gold and Fish pamphlet replaces all previous editions and will remain valid until the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) publishes a new edition. The rules contained in it were developed to protect fish and their habitats. This pamphlet serves as your Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) for the types of freshwater mineral prospecting and mining activities described in it. You must follow the rules in the pamphlet(1) when you conduct those projects in Washington. These rules do not relieve you from the additional need to obtain landowner permission before conducting any mineral prospecting activity. This includes lands owned or managed by WDFW and other local, state, and federal agencies, and tribes. You must also follow the rules and regulations of tribal, local, federal, and other Washington state agencies and obtain any permits they require. You may print out the Gold and Fish pamphlet from this website or request one from a WDFW office. There is no charge for the Gold and Fish pamphlet.

If you want to conduct mineral prospecting or mining activities at different times or locations, with different equipment than allowed in this pamphlet, or in marine waters, you must apply for a separate, written HPA. You will receive an HPA if WDFW can determine that your proposed activity does not harm fish life.

You may request a written HPA by submitting a complete application to WDFW. The application form is titled "Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application" (JARPA). The JARPA  and instructions are available online at www.epermitting.org. You can also call the Office of Regulatory Assistance at (800) 917-0043 or (360) 725-0628, or send an email to help@ora.wa.gov.

If you wish to apply for a written HPA for prospecting on Washington’s coastal ocean beaches, you may use a simplified application instead of JARPA. This form is not available from the Office of Regulatory Assistance, but you may download it here. Follow the instructions on the application and submit it to WDFW. Applications for mineral prospecting HPAs are exempt from the requirement to pay the $150 application fee.

Agencies with an Interest in Mineral Prospecting
The Gold and Fish pamphlet gives you authority to conduct mineral prospecting or placer mining operations from the WDFW only. Several other federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies have their own requirements that must be met before you can legally prospect or mine in areas under their jurisdiction.

How do I use the Gold and Fish pamphlet?
You can use the pamphlet as your permit for small scale mineral prospecting and placer mining by following these steps:

  • Print out the Gold and Fish pamphlet from this website or request one from a WDFW office.
  • Decide where you want to prospect or mine.
  • Decide what type of equipment you want to use.
  • Find your stream in the work time table to see when the location is open for work and if you need a separate, written HPA.
  • See if you need to work under “Mineral Prospecting Without Timing Restrictions” or “Mineral Prospecting With Timing Restrictions.”
  • Obtain any additional permits you may need from other agencies before starting work.
  • Follow the provisions in the pamphlet.

What if I get an individual HPA?
If you receive an individual, written HPA from WDFW, you must follow the provisions in your HPA. In addition, you must also obtain any permits you may need from other agencies before starting work.

Do I need a permit to prospect in Washington?
Since 1980, a permit (the Hydraulic Project Approval, or HPA) has been required from the WDFW to mineral prospect or placer mine. Mineral prospecting and placer mining activities can harm fish and their habitat if not conducted properly. Limitations in an HPA are designed to protect fish and fish habitat while still allowing as much activity as possible. Most freshwater mineral prospecting and placer mining activities are permitted through the Gold and Fish pamphlet. You can print a copy of the pamphlet from this website or request one from a WDFW office.

If the Gold and Fish pamphlet does not cover the location, equipment, or work time you want to use, you can request an individual, written HPA. The application form is called a Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA). You can see and print out the JARPA form, attachments, and instructions at www.epermitting.wa.gov. Fill out the JARPA and send it to WDFW headquarters in Olympia. In most cases, allow 45 days for processing your complete application.

If you wish to apply for a written HPA for prospecting on Washington’s coastal ocean beaches, you may use a simplified application instead of JARPA. This form is not available from the Office of Regulatory Assistance, but you may download it here. Follow the instructions on the application and submit it to WDFW. Applications for mineral prospecting HPAs are exempt from the requirement to pay the $150 application fee.

Several other state and federal agencies have an interest in mineral prospecting and placer mining, and may require a permit:

Local jurisdictions and tribal governments may also require permits. Contact these agencies directly (see the Gold and Fish pamphlet for contact information) or the Washington State Office of Regulatory Assistance at (800) 917-0043.

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has adopted rules that allow prospecting on ocean beaches. Because that agency adopted their own rules about beach prospecting, I don't need a permit from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, do I?
Yes. The rules adopted by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission allowing certain beach prospecting activities are in addition to WDFW's permitting requirements. Because prospecting in marine waters is not covered by the Gold and Fish pamphlet, you must apply for, and be issued, an individual HPA to legally prospect on ocean beaches. If you wish to prospect on Washington’s coastal ocean beaches, you may use a simplified application instead of JARPA to apply for approval to do so. This form is not available from the Office of Regulatory Assistance, but you may download it here. Follow the instructions on the application and submit it to WDFW.

What’s in the Gold and Fish pamphlet?
Freshwater mineral prospecting and placer mining is allowed under the Gold and Fish pamphlet with certain restrictions:

  • There are two categories of prospecting:
    • You can use pans; spiral wheels; and smaller sluices, concentrators, mini rocker boxes, and mini high-bankers in certain portions of most locations year-round.
    • You can use pans; spiral wheels; larger sluices, concentrators, rocker boxes, and high-bankers; suction dredges; power sluice/suction dredge combinations; high-bankers; and power sluices only at specified locations and during certain times of the year.
  • Any number of individuals of any age may work at an excavation site.
  • No work on unstable slopes.
  • Ganged equipment may be used, up to a certain size.
  • Only larger prospecting equipment must be separated by 200 feet.
  • Work times are based on updated data.
  • Simplified screening criteria.
  • Maximum dredge nozzle size is five and a quarter inches.
  • Pressurized water may be used for leveling tailings and for crevicing.

1 This pamphlet includes the mineral prospecting rules under the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) available online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/ under WACs 220-110-020, -030, -031, -200, -201, -202, and -206. The rules were adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on November 8, 2008 and became effective April 3, 2009. The rules will remain in effect until modified or rescinded by the Commission.