Placer Mining

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Placer Mining Permitting Process

Photo by David Farmer

Welcome to the Alaska District’s information center for placer mining in Alaska.

Your Application for Permits to Mine in Alaska (APMA) submitted through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) acts as your application for a Department of the Army (DA) permit. USACE will download your APMA off of the DNR’s website and evaluate for the potential need for a USACE Alaska District, Regulatory Division permit. During this evaluation of your APMA the USACE will likely contact you for additional information or to let you know that you do not need a DA permit. If you have not been contacted please reach out to us and let us know. Mining activities cannot occur if a DA permit is needed. If work starts without a DA permit you may be in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The USACE Alaska District, Regulatory Division prefers you submit your APMA application through DNR, however, you are always welcome to apply directly to the USACE Alaska District, Regulatory Division. Please contact USACE if you have any questions prior to submitting an application.

Activities That May Require a DA Permit

The USACE Alaska District, Regulatory Division has jurisdiction over the discharge of fill into waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), including wetlands. See the Do I Need a Permit? page for more information. The following are types of mining activities that may require authorization from the Corps of Engineers:

  • Exploration work involving trenching or drilling in wetlands, including the construction of associated features such as temporary or permanent pads and roads.
  • Excavation where materials are pushed or placed back into wetlands.
  • Any work that would occur in a creek, river or stream, including a temporary stream diversion or a stream relocation.

Activities in Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) That Do NOT Require a DA Permit

  • Using a chainsaw to remove trees.
  • The discharge of fill on existing authorized pads or roads without enlarging the pad or road.

Important Considerations When Filling Out the APMA

Filling out your APMA with current, detailed information can result in quicker permitting actions. Including pictures of where you plan to mine with your APMA is appreciated. Remember the supplements—there are only two now! The supplements are included as a part of the APMA on the state website. The USACE Alaska District, Regulatory Division is happy to assist you with filling out the required supplements (contact us for support). Exploration before mining is encouraged as an avoidance and minimization measure.

Types of Permits That May be Used for Mining Activities in Alaska

Individual Permits for Placer Mining

A Standard Individual Permit is required for activities having more than minimal impacts and/or for activities that do not qualify for a Nationwide Permit or Regional General Permit (see activities listed below). An important distinction between an Individual Permit and a Nationwide Permit or Regional General Permit is the public interest review requirement. Nationwide Permits and Regional General Permits undergo public review as part of their development process; however, project-specific actions can be authorized by Nationwide Permit or Regional General Permit without further public review.

A Standard Individual Permit is subject to the public interest review process on a project-specific basis. A public notice will be issued for a Standard Individual Permit application to allow federal, state, and local agencies, adjacent property owners, and the general public an opportunity to review and comment on the plan or to request a public hearing. Applications involving public notices are typically completed within 120 days. However, some complex activities, issues or legal requirements may require additional review and take more time.


Regional General Permit (RGP) 04 - Suction Dredging in Tidal Waters

This RGP authorizes the operation of limited suction dredges in navigable waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tides, for the purpose of mining metals, strictly in accordance with the limitations, terms and conditions of the RGP-04. Please take note of the timing windows.

Activities Not Covered By RGP 04

  • Suction dredges with intake diameters of more than 10 inches are not permitted under this RGP.
  • Habitat: This RGP does not apply to projects in coral, submerged aquatic vegetation, macro-algae, shellfish beds, or wetlands.
  • State Designated Special Areas: Unless the activity is specifically authorized by the agency with jurisdiction over these lands.
  • Federally Designated Areas (existing or nominated): Unless the activity is specifically authorized by the agency with jurisdiction over these lands.
  • Within the Municipality of Anchorage, or within the Bristol Bay Borough designated commercial fishing, seafood processing, recreational use, and tourism areas on the Naknek River.
  • Endangered Species: The RGP does not apply to projects that would adversely affect endangered species or critical habitat as designated under the Endangered Species Act (1973); unless Section 7 consultation is completed. See condition #6.
  • Archaeological, cultural, or historic properties: In cases where the district engineer determines that the activity may affect properties listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places, the activity is not authorized, until the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) have been satisfied. See condition #7.

Regional General Permit (RGP) 08 - Placer Mining

This RGP can be used to authorize the discharge of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the United States (U.S.), including wetlands and streams, for the purpose of mechanical placer mining within the State of Alaska, under the terms and conditions of the GP. Make sure you know the requirements of the RGP! This includes but is not limited to submittal of an annual report.

Activities Not Covered By RGP 08

  • Activities in or affecting anadromous fish streams or ADEC’s Impaired Waters do not fit under RGP 8, Placer Mining.
  • Temporary mining roads for the purpose of moving mining equipment, where such roads are constructed and maintained in accordance with best management practices (BMPs), are exempt from the CWA (33 CFR 323.4 (a)(6)). A temporary road has a limit of three years.
  • Recreational Mining: use of hand tools such as a pick, shovel, pan, and/or rocker box do not require DA authorization. Addressed in Special Public Notice 94-10, September 13, 1994.
  • Commercial Gravel Operations located at a placer mining site but operated for the sole purpose of gravel sales do not fit under RGP 8 but likely require authorization under an Individual Permit.
  • Suction dredge mining NOT located within Section 10 waters: use of suction device to remove bottom substrate from a water body and then discharge the material from a sluice box for the purpose of extracting gold or other precious metals. Suction Dredging within Section 10 waters would require a Section 10 permit from the Corps.
  • Mining/working in Navigable Waters of the U.S.
  • Hard Rock or Coal Mining that results in a discharge of fill into Waters of the U.S. does not fit under RGP 8, but does require authorization from the Corps under an appropriate NWP or an IP.

Nationwide Permit (NWP) 6 - Survey Activities

NWP6 can be used to authorize survey activities, such as core sampling, seismic exploratory operations, plugging of seismic shot holes and other exploratory-type bore holes, exploratory trenching, soil surveys, sampling, sample plots or transects for wetland delineations, and historic resources surveys. For the purposes of this NWP, the term “exploratory trenching” means mechanical land clearing of the upper soil profile to expose bedrock or substrate, for the purpose of mapping or sampling the exposed material. Fill placed for roads and other similar activities is not authorized by this NWP. The NWP does not authorize any permanent structures. The discharge of drilling mud and cuttings may require a permit under Section 402 of the Clean Water Act. (Authorities: Sections 10 and 404)


Nationwide Permit (NWP) 44 - Mining Activities

This NWP authorizes the discharges of dredged or fill material into non-tidal waters of the United States for mining activities, except for coal mining activities, provided the activity meets all of the following criteria:

  1. For mining activities involving discharges of dredged or fill material into non-tidal jurisdictional wetlands, the discharge must not cause the loss of greater than 1⁄2-acre of non-tidal jurisdictional wetlands;
  2. For mining activities involving discharges of dredged or fill material in non-tidal jurisdictional open waters (e.g., rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds) or work in non-tidal navigable waters of the United States (i.e., section 10 waters), the mined area, including permanent and temporary impacts due to discharges of dredged or fill material into jurisdictional waters, must not exceed 1⁄2-acre; and
  3. The acreage loss under paragraph (a) plus the acreage impact under paragraph (b) does not exceed 1⁄2-acre.

This NWP does not authorize discharges of dredged or fill material into non-tidal wetlands adjacent to tidal waters.

A pre-construction notification must be submitted to the district engineer prior to commencing the activity (see General Condition 32). If reclamation is required by other statutes, then a copy of the final reclamation plan must be submitted with the pre-construction notification. (Authorities: Sections 10 and 404)

Note: Regional Condition H (NWP 44 Mining Activities) - Placer mining activities are excluded from NWP 44. Placer mining may be authorized by RGP 08. In Alaska, NWP 44 may only authorize the following activities:

  1. Hard rock mining within waters jurisdictional under only Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, not including trenching, drilling, or access to road construction
  2. Temporary stockpiling of sand and gravel in waters of the U.S., limited to seasonally dewatered unvegetated sand/gravel bars. Stockpiles shall be completely removed, and the area restored to pre-project contours within one year, in advance of seasonal ordinary highwater mark events, or prior to equipment being removed from site, whichever occurs first.