Permitting in California

Bear CubThe state of California has some of the richest, high-grade gold deposits in the world. Unfortunately it is also probably the most difficult place to obtain the necessary permits to extract the great wealth from the ground. The permitting process and environmental regulations are so onerous that even the major mining companies have decided not to pursue mining activities in the state.  Understanding the steps required to get a mine permitted is a must.

The following list is provided to help familiarize you with some of the regulatory agencies and examples of their permitting requirements:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The BLM is the federal agency in charge of all usage of public lands. They administer all mining claims recordings including location notices, annual maintenance fees and affidavits of assessments. Any mining activities on BLM land (with the exception of USFS land) require the filing and approval of a Notice of Intent (NOI) including a reclamation plan. The approval process can take quite some time and depending on the scope of the project may require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Impact Study (EIS), a public review period and the posting of a reclamation bond.

United States Forest Service (USFS)

Most mining claims in California are located on USFS land. This federal agency requires submission and approval of a Plan of Operations (POO) which has much the same requirements as the BLM Notice of Intent. All POOs must be written to address National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) standards.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

In addition to the federal NEPA requirements all mining activities in California must adhere to the state’s stricter environmental protection measures.

California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA)

In addition to the state CEQA requirements any mining operation that disturbs more than one acre of land or 1,000 cubic yards of material must submit a reclamation plan for approval to the county planning agency. These plans often require much more detail than a NOI or POO.

California State Water Quality Control Board (CSWQCB)

California has the strictest water quality standards in the world. These regulations are administered by the regional water quality control boards often stacked with environmentalists. At a minimum, a mining operation will require the submission and approval of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). Any portal discharge of mine water will also likely require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit. The NPDES permit can take up to 2 years for approval and is open to public comments. Both permits require extensive and expensive water testing and monitoring.

Permitting in CaliforniaAlcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)

Any operation which requires the use of explosives must have qualified personnel with an (ATF) explosives permit. A California Certificate of Eligibility must also be obtained and each county has its own explosives permits as well. Due to the Homeland Security Act these permits can often be difficult to obtain.

County Zoning & Regulations

Each county in California has its own set of regulations that control public and private land usage. Most mining operation applications are viewed negatively, and operators oftentimes must apply for special use permits, the approval of which are subject to public input and county commissioner discretion.


The “Under the Radar” Option

These requirements may seem insurmountable to most small mine operators and even to the major mining companies. The high costs and expertise needed to navigate through the permitting process are prohibitive for most gold mine owners and have all but killed legal small mining endeavors in the state. Many miners have been forced into operating “under the radar” without the required permits and approvals. This approach is full of potential pitfalls including the possibility of major fines and personal liability issues. It also significantly limits the mine asset’s value and its marketability for potential for a sale or major investment.

CMC is Recognized as an Industry Leader in Permitting


California Mining Consultants' successful experience in permitting mines in California has established it as the industry leader. We have been successful in addressing all of the above permitting requirements and obtaining each of the required permits. Our extensive network of consulting professionals provides a wealth of knowledge and experience in all areas of environmental assessments, agency compliance and the permit application process. In addition we have developed a strong reputation with the numerous lead permitting agencies throughout the state. They recognize our knowledge of the permitting process and professional approach which helps eliminate much of the inertia and resistance a small independent operator may encounter.

The CMC Permitting Approach

The CMC permitting approach focuses on designing an initial mining plan to include the simplest and least expensive requirements to meet permitting compliance. Our professionals will develop a tailored plan for your property that can get you started with the minimal permitting required. Our plan will also provide a framework and roadmap for future expansion, with minimal delays, as the scope and goals of the operation grow.

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