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Hobby prospecting/panning for minerals

Reclaimed mine lands

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management regulates Ohio's industrial minerals surface mining operations under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1514. For more information, see Laws and Regulations for Industrial Minerals Surface Mining and Reclamation

Hobby prospecting activities in Ohio streams are considered “exempt” from Ohio Surface Mine Laws (Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1514) as long as the following apply:

  • prospecting is recreational
  • prospecting is not commercial in nature
  • material collected is of little or no commercial value, and
  • the environmental impacts are diminimus (minor/insignificant)

Please be advised that if conditions change, the Division of Mineral Resources Management will revisit its decision to determine whether the exemption remains appropriate.

Hobby prospectors need to continue to be vigilant in adhering to:

  • exemption guidelines as stated above
  • landowner rights
  • compliance with all other agencies that have jurisdiction over Ohio’s streams

Even though hobby prospecting is not currently considered “in-stream” mining, it does not relieve a person of the obligation of compliance with any other regulatory requirements such as those of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) or any other agency of jurisdiction, prior to the commencement of any prospecting.

If activity involves the use of a suction dredge and stream substrate is being dredged up and run through the sluice and discharged back to the stream, then it may require a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit and associated Section 401 Water Quality Certification. These determinations would need to be made by the appropriate U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office and Ohio EPA respectively.

If one is simply panning with a shovel and pan then these permits probably won’t be needed. Landowner permission is needed to conduct this activity from any stream bank that is private property. Because stream beds and banks are typically private property, even floating into a site requires permission of the landowner.

It is NOT legal to pan on Ohio state forest lands. The only national forest in Ohio is the Wayne National Forest. Please contact the Wayne National Forest regarding their rules/regulations.

If interested in panning within Ohio's state parks, please review the Park Prohibitions section of the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC Chapter 1501:46-3) including:

1501:46-3-11 Geological features
1501:46-3-12 Archaeological features
1501:46-3-27 Collecting prohibited without permit

For additional questions regarding activities within the state parks, please contact the park manager of the appropriate park. Park locations and contact information can be found on the Ohio State Parks website.