Regulations for mining in the Province of British Columbia can be found within the Mines Act (RSBC 1996). A basic rundown can be found below. Please note, the information provided on this page is intended to be used only as a guide, and not as an official source of provincial regulation.
Whenever prospecting, it’s a best practice to first familiarize yourself with the area. Review all Mineral Titles Map’s, and all information updates from provided by the province. Prospecting on a registered placer or mineral claim, on any level, other than walking over the land to reach another location is a crime and heavily frowned upon. Charges can, and will be pressed by claim owners if someone is caught carrying out prospecting activities on a registered claim without the claim owners permission.
Recreational Hand Panning in BC
Recreational hand panning is welcome in BC, and can be done in numerous locations across the province. There are however, some restrictions on what activities can take place.
- You must be on a Panning reserve setup by the province. A list of recreational panning reserves can be found on the Province’s website.
- Wile on a Provincial Recreational Panning Reserve, you are limited to the use of only select tools
- A hand shovel
- Gold Pan’s
- Metal Detector
- Sluice Boxes, Highbankers, Pumps and mechanical devices are prohibited.
- Digging is prohibited in the Riparian Zone (any area located within 10 meters of the high water mark).
Hand panning must not be carried out:
- On a valid mineral or placer title unless the person has permission from the recorded holder of the mineral or placer title (Section 9(2) of the Mineral Tenure Act)
- Within a park, conservancy, ecological reserve, or protected area, unless permission from the park warden or administrative agency responsible for the park is first obtained
- On a Provincial heritage site as defined in Section 1 of the Heritage Conservation Act
- On an Indian Reservation or Treaty Settlement Lands, unless permission is first obtained from the First Nation(s)
- On private property without the owner’s permission
The province has put together an information document which all recreational panner’s should familiarize themselves with, which can be found here.
A list of recreational panning reserves is located here.
Prospecting on a Claim
Claim Owners have a little more freedom as to what can be done on a placer or mineral claim that is registered with the Mineral Titles Branch. Highbankers, Pumps, Dry Washers and other times of equipment may be used in the dry.
All work on a claim must be conducted in the dry and on non vegetated portions of gravel bars. If working outside of the creek bed and riparian zone, any water that is used must not be allowed to re enter any body of water, such as rivers, creeks or lakes. All water used must be left to settle in settling ponds. The concern (so the province claims) is silt from used water getting back into the watercourse, causing damage to fish habitats.
Information Update 38 – Acceptable Practices for Placer Hand Mining in British Columbia defines the acceptable practices for placer hand mining and can be found here.
While working on a Placer Claim, Highbankers may be used so long as its not on a gravel bar, and outside of the 10 meter riparian zone. Pumps can be used to pull water from a water source, but are limited to a 1.5 inch (38mm) suction intake port on the pump. All suction hoses located within the water source must have a screen on the inlet with openings no larger than 2.5mm.
All holes or trenches that have been dug must be refilled at the end of use to prevent injuries to people using the area. If they are being left unattended, clearly mark them using flagging tape. Be sure to write the claim number, and GPS Latitude / Longitude on the tape. These details can then be used for the Statement of Work which will be filed at the end of each year.
When filling in holes that have been dug, its easiest to used the tailing’s as fill. All rocks, gravel and processes dirt can be pushed into a hand dug hole within a a few minutes (it certainly takes less time to do than digging the hole in the first place – and that’s speaking from experience!). All disturbed land needs to be returned to its original state. This is something you do not want to be caught leaving as the province has the ability to hand out fines, totaling thousands of dollars – and they will send the bill your way if they end up contracting the reclamation out.