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The Bradshaw mtns of Az have received a good amount of rain and snow lately.  Most of the larger drainages should be flowing now and for several weeks.  I would guess other drainages in placers around the state might be flowing now as well.

If you don't know where to try dredging, you might join the roadrunner's prospecting club out of Phx. (Or meet a member and go as a guest).

They have lots of dredgeable claims.  Unfortunately, they agree to various restrictions imposed by the Forest Service, such as 3" dredge max (unless you are grandfathered to use 4").  There are also seasonal closures on many of the club claims due to birds and frogs you should look into.  I was a member for a few years and then decided I'd go do my own thing, but it still might be a good way to get into the scene, meet peeps and get to know some creeks.

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If you want to go it alone, talk to the prospecting shops and see if you can get some tips on areas to try.  If you are familiar with researching areas for active mining claims, then it's very possible to find open areas to prospect.  That will take time.  

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The BLM apparently now thinks that dredging in AZ requires a notice of intent and a bond.

Below is a paste from their 2014 publication entitled...


Operator Information for Casual Use, Notice and Plan Level Operations and for Providing a Financial Guarantee as Required by 43 CFR 3809

The BLM does not process applications for Casual Use activities under 43 CFR 3809 and you are not required to contact BLM before beginning Casual Use activities. You are however required to have a working knowledge of all applicable laws and regulations pertaining to mining in Arizona before you begin your Casual Use activities. A simple example of a Casual Use activity common in Arizona is the operation of prospecting or rock collecting using a metal detector and/or other hand tools while camping on public lands. You cannot engage in suction dredging at a casual use level on BLM administered lands in Arizona. Suction dredging can only be done pursuant to a Notice or Plan, filed under 43CFR 3809. Any camping must be in compliance with all camping regulations and you must not occupy the public lands for more than 14 days in any 90 day period within a radius of 25 miles of your initially occupied site. 

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Typical mission creep?  Blatant misrepresentation of their own regulations?  Anyone else see this?  


The BLM forwarded this to me recently, along with several other publications, because I told them I would like to possibly start the process of obtaining a NOI to use a backhoe to excavate pay dirt on one of my claims.


I have been dredging in Az off and on for about 15 years and  I always understood that it fell under casual use.  This new publication states otherwise.

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The BLM also forwarded their actual CFR 3809 regulations.  Here is the definition of casual use that I was familiar with.

Are they simply trying to fool people in order to get them to apply for a NOI and submit a financial guarantee?  That whole process would likely keep many small-scale miners from using a suction dredge.  Here's another paste...



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


As used in this subpart, the term:


Casual use means activities ordi-
narily resulting in no or negligible dis-
turbance of the public lands or re-
sources. For example—


(1) Casual use generally includes the
collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or
mineral specimens using hand tools;
hand panning; or non-motorized sluic-
ing. It may include use of small port-
able suction dredges.
It also generally
includes use of metal detectors, gold
spears and other battery-operated de-
vices for sensing the presence of min-
erals, and hand and battery-operated
drywashers. Operators may use motor-
ized 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. 


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diggingbar  I don't have a problem understanding CFR 3809 regs.at all, so I will interperate it for you.


"Gold miners stay out!   You are on BLM land and we are Bureaucrats Managing the Land.  This land is not for the U.S. taxpayers to rape in order to make millions of dollars on the weekend."

  If you need a job with good benefits and you enjoy harassing people and working at Mc Donalds was too hard for you to comprehend even though you had 3 years of colledge.        Then come join our BLM team!


I think my interpertation is slightly biased and I may have taken some liberties about most people who work there, but I hope you have a better understanding now.


P.S.  I now reside in Arizona again and will need to obtain the truck loads of regulations myself.  I am not sure if I can suck hard enough to operate a suction dredge without using a motorized sluice box.  Maybe you can explain that process to me, because I was a dumb goldminer when I should have gone to colledge.

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Sometimes, things are put into print and distributed as fact, hoping that the masses won't notice that new regulations are contrary to actual law (general mining laws, case law).   I think that's what is going on with the dredging/NOI issue I posted above.  

Both the 14 day camping limit as well as the requirement to submit a NOI and bond in order to mine your claim with a suction dredge are completely bogus.  If miners start to believe new, unlawful regulations are legitimate, then the truth gets more obscured… until it's no longer known.


There is a large prospecting shop here in Az that once told me over the phone that it is only legal to use a 3" or smaller suction dredge.  

That is simply untrue.  I guess they don't plan on selling anything larger than a 3" dredge.    

For some reason, it seems the USFS thinks that 3" is the acceptable limit for a suction dredge.  I don't know how they may have come up with that reasoning, but clubs like the Roadrunners have agreed to that size limit for their members.  I find a 3" dredge to be the bare minimum for getting any reasonable amount of suction dredge mining done.  More often, it's at least a 4".  If I had the water, it would be a 5" or 6".  Miners in Alaska might tell you it's a 6" or 8" that makes sense to them.


If I may.  Simply processing more yardage per day doesn't equate to harm to the public lands or the environment.  Rather, properly-sized equipment allows efficiency (fewer man hours and less fuel use overall) and one to use the best methods they have determined to be available.  How many USFS or BLM employees have any mining experience at all?   How would these public servants know the best method to mine your valuable mineral deposit?

As claim owners, we determine the best type of equipment for the job.  Mining is hard work, if not the hardest work there is.  Don't let the regulatory agencies and the ill-informed make your mining needlessly more difficult than it already is.  

I say this realizing that in the land of the lost (Ca), miner's granted rights are violated with extreme prejudice and all common sense has been thrown out the window.  They have been fighting for years to regain their right to mine using best methods available (suction dredge).   Those at the front lines are being harassed and cited for their "violations".  Lets hope the pending legal cases are won and finally restore the miner's right to do his job.

Thanks for the question Gary!  I have no idea if you are dredging in Az, but you gave me a good place for a nice rant.  

Happy dredging!  

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Thanks for bringing fact based information to this subject diggingbar. The BLM circular is clearly in error but that doesn't really matter. The BLM and the Forest Service are not your lawyer and can't legally be held liable for disseminating false or misleading information in their handouts or conversations.


You can rely on one source of information however. The Federal Register contains the explanations of the intent behind the CFR regulations. In 2008 the Forest Service published Clarification for the Appropriate Use of a Criminal or a Civil Citation To Enforce Mineral Regulations in the Federal Register. This was classed as a final rule. From the explanation of that rule:


 Reasonably incidental residential use of NFS lands by persons conducting locatable mineral prospecting, exploration, mining, or processing that will not cause significant disturbance of NFS surface resources does not require prior submission of a notice of intent to conduct operations or approval of a plan of operations...
An operator, consequently, is not required to notify the Forest Service prior to conducting locatable mineral operations which involve occupancy of NFS lands providing that those operations meet two conditions: (1) The occupancy is reasonably incidental to locatable mineral prospecting, exploration, mining, or processing and (2) those proposed (or ongoing) operations, including such reasonably incidental occupancy, cumulatively will not cause (or are not causing) significant disturbance of NFS surface resources. Moreover, when occupancy is reasonably incidental to prospecting, exploration, mining, and processing operations, then the level of surface disturbance, not the duration of the occupancy, will determine whether a Notice of Intent or a Plan of Operations is required.


Clearly on Forest Service lands occupancy (including camping) related to "prospecting, exploration, mining, or processing" that does not create a significant surface disturbance is not subject to a NOI, POO or the 14 day camping rule. No permit or plan required.


These are what the regulations mean. Every Forest Service employee is bound by this explanation no matter what circulars are offered or silly statements by their boss. The Federal Register is your reliable go to source when learning the meaning of federal regulations. It demonstrates irrefutable agency intent in any court of law.


A simple exploration of the law behind the regulations will show you why no federal government agency can prevent or regulate your reasonably incidental mining activities, including dredge size or length of stay as long as you do not create a "significant surface disturbance". 


I'll wait for the obvious next question about what is a "significant surface disturbance" for another time in another thread. ;)

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Clay, you did a great job covering "significant surface disturbance" in another post which I'll paste here.  Please expand upon it in another thread when you have time.  We all will benefit.


There is no "significant surface disturbance" mining prohibition in the law so you will never find a legal definition. The USDA and the BLM use that term in their regulations to cover all the various surface  acts that might require their attention - not just mining.
The actual standard under the law is "undue or unnecessary degradation of the lands" and that has been defined by the Supreme Court.

"[a] reasonable interpretation of the word 'unnecessary' is that which is not necessary for mining.

'Undue' is that which is excessive, improper, immoderate or unwarranted."

Utah v. Andrus, 486 F. Supp.

995, 1005 n.13 (D. Utah 1979)
You can rely on that definition to be upheld by the courts no matter what your mining issue. The BLM and Forest Service - not so much. See my post above about illegal agendas within the surface management agencies.

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Here's a couple tidbits on the topic and I'll leave it there.

The Forest Service tries to define what they consider to be a significant resource disturbance in their FSM.  I don't believe the FSM holds any legal weight.  

Their definition from 36CFR 9.2 (L)

(l) Significantly disturbed for purposes of mineral extraction. Land will be considered significantly disturbed for purposes of mineral extraction when there has been surface extraction of commercial amounts of a mineral, or significant amounts of overburden or spoil have been displaced due to the extraction of commercial amounts of a mineral. Extraction of commercial amounts is defined as the removal of ore from a claim in the normal course of business of extraction for processing or marketing. It does not encompass the removal of ore for purposes of testing, experimentation, examination or preproduction activities.

And more from their FSM….

“FSM2817.11- Determination of significant resource disturbance.

The determination of what is significant can come only a fair, reasonable, and consistent evaluation of proposed operations on a case by case basis. Significant is a site sensitive term: a particular surface resource-disturbing activity in one area, such as flat sage brush-covered ground, might not be significant, while the same operation in a high alpine meadow could be highly significant.
Onsite surface-resource disturbance will come almost entirely from earthmoving activities or from site clearance. Such on site disturbance would be considered significant if natural recovery, to a condition of no higher standard than existed before the operation, would not be expected to take place within a reasonable period of time.” 

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  Excellent posts. The more layers of bureaucratic rules, regulations and stipulations open to interpretation the further we become removed from the intent of the law.

You are absolutely correct it is not some low lying BLM employees job to tell you how to mine. According to law their job is to issue you a permit ( if warranted) and then see

to it that you follow that permit so as to not cause "undue or unnecessary degradation" to the public lands... period!


 Trouble is it is an exhausting fight every day every step of the way to prevail.


 It is refreshing to read yours and Clay's posts.

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