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Small Scale Mining Permit Requirements for Oregon


First off, here’s my disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, nor would I offer legal advice. This is simply a compilation of current information (as of 09/17/2014) available through the various state agency publications, websites and staff.

Okay, here’s the skinny:

The WPCF 600PM Permit covers small-scale, off-stream (above high water mark), non-chemical mining activity which disposes of all wastewater by evaporation or seepage with no traceable discharge of wastes to groundwater or surface water. This permit is limited to 10,000 cubic yards per year. Operations moving more than 10,000 cubic yards require an individual permit.

The fee for a 600PM is $213 with the following exceptions. No fee is required for operations that process less than 1,500 cubic yards per year, or for renewal of an existing WPCF 600PM.

This permit can be issued as mobile or non-mobile, with additional location information required for non-mobile.

One really important thing to note here is that some counties are pretty particular about water rights. Using surface or groundwater to process material, even groundwater seeping into a freshly dug hole could run you afoul of your county Water Master. Check with your county prior to hiring that excavator… On the positive side, dipping a bucket into a stream for water for your recirculating unit does not require a water right.

600PM Application Form

The NPDES 700PM General Permit covers small-scale, in-water mining activity other than hand-panning. This would include suction dredge mining and use of powered equipment as well as non-powered mining activity (other than panning) such as stream sluicing.

If you’re working in the water, aside from hand-panning, you need the permit, but non-powered equipment, with an exception, does not require registration of the permit.

The current 700PM General Permit expires December 31st, 2014, so this info covers the new permit that kicks in January one. The above is still true, but the new permit breaks out essential salmon habitat from non-essential, with different regs for both. First, if it’s not designated as Essential Salmon Habitat, you can go up to 30 horsepower and a 6” hose. Notice they used “hose” rather than “nozzle”. No necking tacking a 6” steel ring to an 8” nozzle and calling it a six.

For areas designated as Essential Salmon Habitat, you’re looking at no greater than 16 horsepower and a 4” max nozzle. Yes, they used “nozzle” here rather than “hose”. In-water, non-motorized mining equipment use requires the same compliance, but does not require registration to be covered by the permit. As mentioned, this doesn’t apply to panning. According to new permit, the “DEQ does not view panning as non-motorized mining equipment and a water quality permit is not required for panning.” Please note that while gravity and siphon dredges are not actually motorized, they are the exception I mentioned above. Under the new 700PM they are considered suction dredges and treated as if they had a motor.

The 700PM does not cover all waterways. Dredging is prohibited in Oregon’s Scenic Waterways. The 700PM also does not cover dredges greater than 16 horsepower or 4” nozzle in Essential Salmon Habitat.

The 700PM also does not cover mining outside the wet perimeter of the stream in Essential Salmon Habitat.

The 700PM also does not cover in-water mining, powered or otherwise on tribal lands or in a stream that serves as a tribal reservation boundary.

Lastly, Water Quality Limited Streams are not covered, and for this I’ll just quote the permit: “This general permit does not cover discharges from suction dredges operating on any stream segment that is listed as water quality limited in category 4 and 5 for sediment, turbidity or toxics on the list published by DEQ pursuant to OAR 340-041-0046 unless a stream segment is subject to a total maximum daily load (TMDL) that specifically authorizes mining under the 700PM permit.”

The annual fee is $25 (when powered-equipment is to be used) plus a $150 nonrefundable surcharge for obtaining or maintaining registration in 2015. A change from previous years is that the fee can be pre-paid for five years, but with a moratorium possible as early as 2016, it seems a little cynical to let people pre-pay.

Miners using non-motorized equipment will be subject to the same performance standards as powered-equipment operators, but are not subject to filing an application or paying the annual fee.

All miners covered under this permit must have a copy of the permit on hand or readily available at the mining site whenever mining.

700PM Fact Sheet

Essential Salmonid Habitat

The Removal-Fill Permit issued by the Department of State Lands (DSL) covers all use of motorized mining equipment in Essential Salmon Habitat (see map above). Non-motorized prospecting is exempt. I repeat, non-motorized prospecting is exempt.

There are two types of removal-fill permits issued by the DSL; General Authorizations (GAs) and Individual Permits (IPs). The GA covers mining activity disturbing less than 25 cubic yards of material in ESH streams. GA holders make note, an Annual Report for the current year must be filed prior to December 31st in order to be eligible to apply for a recreational GA in the following year.

An IP is required when planned activities will disturb 25 yards or more in ESH streams, 50 yards or more in non-ESH streams, involve operating a dredge larger than 4”, or involve recreational placer mining in State Scenic Waterways.

DSL General Authorization Application

DSL IA Joint Permit Application

Oregon Placer Mining Fact Sheet

No permit gives you the right to mine, cross, access, disturb, trespass, etc. on any land without the owner’s permission. Additionally, no permit gives you the right to mine on somebody else’s mining claim.

Another couple notes with regard to private property; just remember the state treats Essential Salmonid Habitat the same regardless who owns the land, and land ownership doesn’t automatically mean you have water rights for processing. Please don’t think you can park a $100,000 wash plant on your back forty and run gravel to your heart’s content.

I know this is long-winded, but I hope it helps.

Lastly, you are welcome to link to this article. You are NOT welcome to copy it, frame it or plagiarize it in any way, in whole or in part, unless you'd like me to issue a DMCA take down notice to your ISP. Sorry for being blunt, but I'm tired of seeing other websites "borrow" my hard work.

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