“Who owns the gold?”, and “Why do you want to give it away?”

These are the two most frequently asked questions by those hearing about recreational gold prospecting for the first time. I guess their first inclination is that you have something you want to sell them. Well that is not the case. The gold, much of which is on public land, belongs to the citizens of this country. Federal and/or state laws will be the governing body. State laws will vary between states, but lets take the California laws for example, seeing as that is where the most gold is. In California ownership of the land does not give the land owner the rights to, or ownership of, the minerals contained in that land. The mineral rights must be obtained separately by filing for them. If you have the mineral rights on public land, then you or those you authorize may remove the minerals, because they belong to you. If you have the mineral rights to land that belongs to another entity, you will need their permission to go onto the land to retrieve the minerals. Even though the land belongs to them, they can not remove your minerals without your permission. The most common situation is that the minerals are on public lands that are managed by the federal or state governments. Many of the public lands have what is referred to as an “open area” for gold prospecting. In those areas anyone can prospect for gold in accordance with all the rules that have been designated for that area. The rules will vary from area to area. For example, one area may allow dredging certain times of the year, while others may only allow panning.

Anyway, to answer the two questions noted. First, the gold you will find on public land already belongs to you, or whoever finds it! Secondly, I can’t give you what is already yours. You will have to get a little healthy outdoor exercise, and have a little fun to claim it.

Where ever you are, you must find out the laws for that area. On federal land you can contact the governing agency, which would be either the U.S. Forestry Service, or the Bureau of Land Management. State lands would be governed by the state government. It sounds confusing, but it really isn’t.

You can contact either federal agency for information on open areas and rules within their jurisdiction. Many areas will have their rules posted on the site. For information in the various states you will find a list of state government agencies and the department name to contact for all the gold bearing states that have a mineral agency in “THE GREAT AMERICAN GOLD RUSHES”, Volume I in “THE GREAT AMERICAN SERIES” of e-books on gold.