Colorado is known historically for gold mining since the first discovery of gold in 1859. According to the Colorado Mining Association, Colorado's gold production ranks fourth in the United States and is home to Newmont Mining Corporation, the largest gold producer in the world. Gold is still found in Colorado and in many cases you may start mining and prospecting without a permit.
Mining and prospecting is not permitted on private land without the landowner's permission. You may pan for gold recreationally without permits on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) throughout Colorado. Rockhounding, or collecting rocks and minerals including gold that you find on the ground, is also permitted on public lands unless there is a mineral claim on the area. Contact a local BLM office at blm.gov/co to get information on areas covered by mineral claims.
Dredging is a mining method that involves sucking up sediment at the bottom of a stream or river using a hose and then sorting through the sediment looking for minerals such as gold. You may use suction dredging in Colorado; however, you may need a permit. In most cases if you are using a hose that is 4 inches in diameter or less, you will not need a permit. Contact the local BLM office prior to dredging to obtain permits and learn about any special regulations in the area. In addition, you will need to obtain a permit for any other mining method that disturbs or causes damage to the land.
If you find gold on public land and you wish to begin mining, you must file a mining claim with the BLM. According to the Bureau of Land Management, as of 2009, the fee for filing a mining claim is $189.00 per claim. Mining claims give you rights to the minerals in the claimed area, but you do not own any other rights to the land. This means that hikers and other people may enter your land as long as they do not take any gold or minerals.
You may not mine on land covered by a mineral claim. In addition, you may not interrupt mining activities, remove any minerals from the mining site, tamper with mining equipment, signs or markers. Mining trespass is a Class C Felony and if you are convicted you may be sentenced to ten to 25 years in prison and possibly a fine.