CDFW Reminds the Public Suction Dredge Mining Remains Unlawful in California

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692
Mark Stopher, CDFW Senior Policy Advisor, (530) 225-2275

In 2009, California enacted a statutory moratorium on suction dredge mining throughout the state. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds suction dredge miners the moratorium for use of motorized suction dredge equipment remains in effect. In addition, possession of any such equipment within 100 yards of any river stream or lake also remains unlawful.

Suction dredge mining is a method for vacuuming gravel from rivers, streams or lakes to sort through the sediment produced, usually through a sluice box, to recover gold or other precious metal.

Beginning in 2005 and thereafter with the moratorium taking effect in 2009, several lawsuits were filed to challenge the moratorium and the updated suction dredge regulation adopted by CDFW in 2012. Legal challenges to the regulations and the moratorium are in progress in both the San Bernardino County Superior Court and the California Supreme Court. Unless directed otherwise by the courts through a final order and consistent with CDFW obligations under the California Constitution, wildlife officers will continue to enforce the current prohibition on suction dredge mining in California.

Currently there is some misleading information provided on unofficial Internet websites suggesting the legal matters are resolved, the moratorium is no longer in effect, and miners may lawfully mine using motorized suction dredge equipment in California. This information is inaccurate. CDFW is concerned that this misinformation may lead some miners to return to operating suction dredges where they will be at risk of citation or arrest and possible forfeiture of their equipment.

When the legal procedures conclude, CDFW will notify the public of the final outcome and changes to the law, if any.

More information can be found at