Does NH need to regulate a gold rush?

May 30, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

According to a recent article in the Union Leader, TV shows like Yukon Gold have sparked a small gold rush in New Hampshire.  

There are no known large deposits of gold in the Granite State, but recreational prospectors can find small pieces of gold in the gravel at the bottom of streams in northern and western New Hampshire.

The state does not require a permit if a prospector uses a handheld pan to search for gold. 

Some prospectors use larger, motorized equipment that separates water, sediments, and larger mineral pieces.  The state requires a permit for this equipment.

Some environmentalists argue that the state should completely ban heavier prospecting equipment, particularly suction dredges.  Dredges vacuum up a stream bed.

This year the Legislature considered a bill to ban suction dredging, HB 591

According to Rep. Suzanne Gottling, “This equipment has been found to erode riverbanks, create noise, exude fumes, disturb the river sediment, and create turbidity. Undisturbed sediment is needed for aquatic organisms and fish to thrive.” 

Vermont already bans suction dredging.

The Senate killed HB 591, however. 

Many recreational prospectors attended a Senate hearing to argue that suction dredging is not very harmful to the environment.  Some testified that suction dredging can actually clean up rivers by removing lead, mercury, and the invasive weed milfoil.

Others argued that if New Hampshire bans suction dredging, recreational prospectors will be more likely to spend their tourist dollars in Maine, which still allows heavier equipment.

Do you think New Hampshire should more strictly regulate recreational gold prospecting?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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