There is Gold in Michigan, but is it Worth Mining in the Mitten?
Yes. There is gold in Michigan. At least there was. A report from the United States Geological Society states that around 15,000 ounces of gold was produced in Michigan between 1880 and 1959. Today that would be worth about 30 million dollars! Before you get too excited and start your plans to quit your job and become a gold miner you may want to know this: Nevada produced 5.6 million ounces of gold in 2020 alone!
There are still a few active gold mines in Michigan according to the USGS but mounting a big operation to extract may not be economically feasible. Finding a gold vein and digging to it's depth can be costly. If you do decide to join the Michigan Gold Rush a few decades too late, your best bet for gold prospecting in Michigan are in the western Upper Peninsula, mostly in Marquette, Menominee, and Gogebic counties.
If you'd like to get some insider info before you cross the Mackinac Bridge the USGS has an interactive map with existing and closed gold mines you can pan through.
Before you can set foot on any piece of land, there are of course some governmental hurdles to jump through:
- You need to get the land AND mineral rights. You may own the land or have permission from the land owner, but be sure to see who owns the mineral rights. Land owners in Michigan own the surface, not automatically what's beneath it. A trip to your county clerk's office should help to determine ownership
- Follow the rules! Research the regulations before beginning any mining activities. This includes following state and federal laws related to mining and environmental protection.
- Develop a plan. I'd recommend finding the gold first, then develop a plan for there.
As if obtaining permission, permits and planning isn't enough, now you'll need the equipment and a crew. If it's just you mining you can get by with a metal detector and a gold pan, putting you out a couple hundred bucks. For a larger-scale dig, you may need a dredge, a trommel, a sluice box, rock trucks...you could spend ten of thousands to a hundreds of thousands getting up and running.
Who says you have to open a full blown mining operation though? You can head to any river in Michigan, Lower Peninsula included as gold has been found in traces there as well, and take one of these $11 Gold Pans and see if you can find a nugget or at least a story.