News | May 5, 2015

Mechanized gold mining threatens Tennessee’s waters

Gold prospecting may sound like a harmless activity, but done aggressively it can degrade aquatic resources, destroy the habitat for aquatic life, and stir up toxic metals like mercury, which can then flow to downstream water intakes or harm freshwater mussels and other sensitive species. SELC is now working to stop a plan to allow mechanized mining using suction dredges and gasoline powered pumps to vacuum streambeds in Tennessee under the guise of “recreational” gold mining.

This mechanized dredging of streams is a relatively new business, aggressively marketed nationwide and popularized by reality television shows. A local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America is trying to obtain a permit to allow the practice in Exceptional Tennessee Waters, on National Forest land, and within Wilderness Management Areas. As a backup, the organization proposed legislation exempting the activity from the standard protections afforded to Tennessee waters. SELC is working to ensure that “recreational” mining is subject to the same standards as other activities that impact the public’s resources.