Salmon Protections Strike Calif.'s New '49ers
Gold prospectors banned from using 21st-century dredgers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2009 6:44 AM CST
Russ Kurz, 77, carries up a bucket full of sand and gravel that he will use to demonstrate gold panning for a school group along the American River in Coloma, Calif.    (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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(Newser) – Prospectors seeking to join California's new gold rush are facing an upstream battle amid moves to protect the state's salmon stocks. Suction dredge mining, which uses gas-powered machines to scrape gold from river beds, has been banned while its environmental impact is reviewed, a process expected to take until 2011. The move came after pressure from the Karuk tribe, which was devastated during the original 1849 gold rush, the Telegraph reports.

"Our original intent was not to shut down dredging statewide, but because the new 49ers and these mining clubs fought us so hard, we had little alternative but to challenge the rules," says a spokesman for the 3,500-strong tribe. Prospectors complain that dredging is the only way to get at some deposits and are considering trying their luck in Oregon or Washington instead of going back to panning streams 19th-century style.