Placer Mining in BC

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Placer Areas in BC

Where You Can Get a Placer Claim

I am not an expert on mining law - I am just trying to help. Use the information in this website at your own risk. See the Notice at the bottom of this page.
Placer Areas are areas in BC where you can get a Placer Claim. They are also called "Placer Designated Areas" or "areas open for placer acquisition" or "placer registration" or "placer staking".

Almost a quarter of the area of BC is covered by placer areas. This includes an area running from about as far south as Lillooet and Kamloops all the way to the Yukon border and between about 140 km and 300 km wide.

Mining, Prospecting and Gold Panning

The bad news is that ground that can be mined at a profit is already being mined or the owner is looking for either development money or a buyer. Most folks don't have that kind of money.

The good news is that there is still a lot of unexplored ground in BC, including ground above creeks that have been explored.

Almost all placer Prospecting is done in placer areas. Some prospectors start exploring where there are no claims. Some buy placer claims with the intention of making them more valuable by discovering more gold. If they are successful, they either mine the gold or sell the claim for more than they paid for it.

You can pan for gold (with just a pan and shovel) anywhere in BC except for placer claims, private property, First Nations land and parks.

Placer areas have the best known ground, of course. On the other hand, if you don't want to get a claim, you can pan for gold outside placer areas and not have any problem about where other people have claims.

Seeing Placer Areas on Maps

The Ministry provides a PDF map of Designated Placer Areas in BC.

You can Make Maps that show Placer areas using the Mineral Titles Online (MTO) system.

Some Important Areas

The Fraser River

The Fraser River is where BC's first gold rush started in the 1850s, and it continues to be important for everything from weekend gold panning to major placer mining. See the
Fraser River page for more information.

The Fraser River is the only river in BC in which machine-digging can be done on gravel bars.

The Cariboo

The Cariboo is the richest placer area in BC. It lies east of the city of Quesnel, with most of the famous creeks around and between the towns of Wells (near the historic town of Barkerville) and the village of Likely.

The history is wonderful and there are a lot of gold-bearing creeks. The important ones are pretty much covered with placer claims. It is a good area to buy a claim and there is plenty of ground to explore without one.

The Tulameen/Similkameen Area

The Tulameen Placer Area is roughly centered on the town of Princeton, in the southern part of BC. The Tulameen and Similkameen rivers, and some of their tributaries, are rich in platinum as well as gold.

The Omineca

The Omineca is a very large, interesting area because it was only really popular for a short time before many miners moved on to other areas. It is north and west of Prince George - west of Fort St. John. The town of Mackenzie is towards the east side of the area.

It has a center, around the hamlet of Manson Creek, where every square foot is covered in claims, but the rest of this huge area has a lot of open ground to explore. It is remote enough that it still has a lot of potential - wonderful for prospectors that want to get out into remote country.


Atlin is another important, remote placer area, that had a gold rush that ended mostly because of what was happening elsewhere. It is on the east side of Atlin Lake, in the far north west of BC. By road, you have to come south from the Yukon. It has had a lot of attention since the 1800s, but it is still one of the most active placer areas in the province.

The main creeks are covered with claims. Buying a claim is probably the best plan in this area - there are better prospecting opportunities in the Omineca that aren't as difficult to get to.

Small Placer Areas

There are small placer areas scattered across the southern half of BC, including Vancouver Island. Some haven't had much attention for a hundred years. Some have become much easier to get to because of logging roads.

With a GPS and a 4x4 truck or SUV, you can get to a lot of little areas worth more attention.


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