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Mining for gold can be a profitable hobby, but what if you could find it on land that you own? There’s a big difference between mineral rights and property ownership, so it’s important to know whether or not you own the precious metals and gemstones found on your property.
You can mine for gold on your property if you own the mineral rights. Most mineral rights are included with the land deed, which means you automatically own them. Previous owners can claim the mineral rights, so make sure you check the deed before buying the property.
Throughout this article, I’ll show you how you can know if you own the gold found on your property. I’ll also provide you with several tips to find and mine gold on your land.
How To Know if You Can Mine Gold Discovered on Your Property
The best way to know if you can mine gold discovered on your property is to check if you have the mineral rights. California is one of many states that separate property rights from mineral rights. You can’t mine gold on your property if you don’t own the mineral rights, so it’s important to know what you have.
Property Rights vs. Mineral Rights
Mineral rights and property rights work very differently. The biggest distinction is that mineral rights refer to anything underground, whereas property rights refer to anything above ground (houses, sheds, plants, etc.).
Here’s what you need to know about mineral rights when mining for gold on your own property:
- Property owners can sell their mineral rights. If you don’t care about owning the minerals you find, you can sell the rights to someone else. Additionally, the previous property owner could have sold the mineral rights without telling you. While they might not say anything verbally, it should always be disclosed in writing.
- SFGate claims that mineral rights need to be mentioned in the deed if they’re separate from property rights. If they’re not mentioned, then you own the property rights and the mineral rights. Keep in mind that separating the property rights from the minerals rights is more common in older properties due to old gold prospecting habits.
- You can find whether or not you own the mineral rights in your deed or at a county recorder’s workplace. Never ignore the possibility of not owning the mineral rights. Finding and selling gold and other mineral materials on a property that you don’t own the mineral rights can be quite problematic and often illegal.
- Mineral rights regulations vary between counties and states. Some of them don’t let mineral rights owners enter your property and take minerals without your permission, while others allow them to give you a heads-up before they dig on your land. They can often get confusing because they need permission to access the land, but not to dig.
Ignoring mineral rights can cause various legal issues. You should always report your findings to the proper mineral rights owner before selling anything. You can also buy the mineral rights to your property if you don’t already own them. This process will let you keep anything you find above or below the surface.
What Happens if You Find Gold in Your Backyard?
If you find gold on your property, you need to find out if you own the rights, if the gold belongs to someone else, and how much you’ll owe in taxes (if applicable). You should also make sure that it’s real gold by bringing it to a goldsmith or a gold shop. Jewelers can test for real gold, too.
Review these steps if you find gold on your property:
- Rock Seeker explains that some states require you to pay taxes on gold findings. This rule applies whether or not you found it on your property. Failing to pay taxes on gold that you find could lead to legal issues, including fines. Check your state’s mineral tax laws to know how much you’ll owe.
- Weigh your gold or bring it to a goldsmith to find out how much it weighs without its impurities. A lot of gold is connected to various rocks that aren’t worth as much. Once the gold is separated from these rocks and minerals, you can weigh it and find out how much you should get for it.
- Get multiple quotes before selling your gold. There are plenty of pawn shops that will try to undercut you because they want to make a big profit. Getting several written and signed quotes will let you compare which places offer the best deals. Some places will buy gold nuggets and not flakes or dust, so it’s worth looking around.
Can You Sell Gold That You Found?
You can sell gold that you found if you own the mineral rights to the land you found the gold or if you found the gold on public lands where gold prospecting is allowed. Many places pay more money for gold that’s already been melted and refined, but you can still get quite a bit of money for scrap gold, gold flakes, and gold dust.
According to Finding a Fortune, you’ll likely get as much as 20% less profit from gold you find with a metal detector than you would from gold that’s already been processed. This is because companies have to clean, melt, and remove impurities from the gold. Nevertheless, raw gold offers excellent profits.
Selling gold that you find starts by removing impurities, weighing the raw gold, and offering a fair market price. However, different companies and people will offer varying prices. Additionally, gold market fluctuations can determine how much money you’ll profit at any given time.
Know Where to Start Digging
To find gold in your backyard, look for areas along fault zones or where there’s moving water. You can also find gold if there’s gravel or quartz in your backyard since they both form near gold deposits. Make sure you don’t extend beyond the property boundaries, though.
Follow this process to find gold in your yard:
- Locate exposed dirt or areas of moving water. Gold doesn’t just appear in the dirt, you have to dig for it. It’s much easier to find traces of gold in rivers, creeks, and streams because they carry it from the source. Those living in mountainous areas will have much higher chances of finding gold in their yard.
- Choose your preferred gold prospecting method. You can pan for gold (especially if there’s water), sluice by setting a sluice in moving water, dig with a shovel or a rock pick, snipe for gold underwater, and more. All of these options allow you to separate gold flakes from the rest of the rocks and minerals in the dirt or river near your property.
- Use a metal detector to know if the area is worth digging. Gold has a very low magnetic field, so you’ll need a metal detector with higher frequencies. Hover the device over your property and slowly wave it back and forth while walking around. You’ll likely find plenty of other metallic items along the way, too!
- Check if you have mineral rights once you obtain gold. This step lets you know if you’re allowed to keep it (or sell it), or if you have to report it to the mineral rights owner. There are many ways to sell gold once you know you’re approved by the mineral rights owner (or if you find out that you own the rights), such as pawn shops, gold shops, etc.
Finding gold in your backyard is rare, but it could help you strike it rich. Even a few gold flakes can be worth quite a bit. You’ll also sharpen your prospecting skills, which greatly improves your chances of finding gold in nearby rivers, mountains, mines, etc.
It’s very unlikely to find gold in your backyard since it’s usually found near moving bodies of water and gold veins near mountains. Gold can also be found around volcanic systems. None of these geological features exist in most urban and suburban areas, but there’s always a chance.
It’s also worth noting that gold can be found in meteors that fall to the earth. They can bring gold, diamonds, and other mineral materials all over the place, including right to your backyard.
Note: Most places claim space objects belong to the government. Make sure you know your local laws and regulations before mining or collecting meteors in the area. Unfortunately, these rules extend to owned property. If it comes from somewhere else and ends up on your land, it might not be yours to claim.
Finding gold on your own property can be difficult, but it’s more than worth the adventure (and potential reward). You can keep the gold if you have the mineral rights for your property. Remember to get multiple quotes to ensure you get the best profit for your findings.