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Bering Sea Gold - The Nome Gold Rush

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This page has been created in response to the large number of inquiries being generated by the new Discovery Channel show, Bering Sea Gold: Dredging for Freedom.

Keep in mind that although shows like these are billed as reality shows they are in fact not a true depiction of reality. The shows are scripted for drama to create viewer interest. This page seeks to inject some reality into the situation and help answer common questions.

This page will be updated periodically to add more information in a condensed format. For even more information and more immediate answers to questions visit a special thread on the AMDS Prospecting Forum devoted to the subject. Call or emails to AMDS regarding dredging at Nome will be referred here and to the forum for answers. The forum thread is HERE.

Some basics. The cost of living at Nome is 17% higher than the US average. You can pay two or three times more for something in Nome than you would elsewhere. And due to the gold rush housing can be almost impossible for a visitor to find. There in no road to Nome - you either fly there or barge equipment there.

Virtually all ground onshore is claimed or private property and offshore ground covered in leases. Unless you buy a claim or lease or work a deal with the owner don't even bother with plans beyond that. You need to have access to ground worth working. The public mining site is closed to commercial operations.

Store bought dredges need to be modified for ocean use or custom rigs built. Storms can and will put large dents in operating seasons. And oh yeah, it is hard work! The odds for most people are very much in favor of it being a money losing operation.

IMPORTANT UPDATE May 30, 2012 Just out, the new Nome Dredgers Resource Guide from the State of Alaska at

Nome Offshore East and West Beach Recreational Mining Areas

The Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mining, Land and Water, hereby gives notice that May 30, 2012 will be the deadline for the division to receive offshore suction dredge applications from miners interested in mining in the Nome offshore east and west beach recreational mining areas during calendar year 2012. This deadline is being implemented as a precautionary measure to mitigate potential safety concerns, prevent overcrowding, and provide for efficient processing of the permits and effective management of the two recreational mining areas.

Letter from State of Alaska:

You are receiving information regarding gold mining in the Nome area. You may have contacted our offices because you saw the reality program on the Discovery Channel “Bearing Sea Gold” and now want to “seek your fortune”.

Prior to making a trip to Nome, you will need to research and know:

1. the cost of your travel (there are no roads to Nome)
2. the cost to get your equipment to Nome (again no roads to Nome) where and what it will cost you to “live” in Nome
3. if you are prepared to find very little gold compared to what you’ll spend to find it

If you have never used suction dredging equipment in Alaska, you will need to educate yourself and receive training to properly and safely operate the equipment. Two untrained miners have died off shore of Nome while mining.

Two sources of local information for Nome are the Nome Nugget ( and the Nome’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (

There are no campgrounds in the immediate vicinity. Additionally, the land surrounding Nome is privately owned with the majority of it held by various Alaska Native Associations. You are not allowed to camp on private land without permission and would need to contact the appropriate association (listed below) or other private land owner to negotiate an agreement to use their land.

Sitnasuak Native Corporation at

Bearing Straits Native Corporation at

King Island Native Corporation (Kawarek) at

Nome Gold Alaska Corporation, P.O. Box 1718, Nome, AK 99762

The Bearing Straits Native Corporation and the Nome Gold Alaska Corporation own surface and subsurface rights to their land. As such, you are not allowed to mine the beach or the uplands of this privately owned land.

Two (2) areas in Nome, the West Beach Public Recreational Mining Area and the East Beach Public Recreational Mining Area, are the ONLY areas where you are able to recreational gold mine with a suction dredge. Commercial operations are NOT allowed in these areas.


Management of both the current East Nome Beach Public Mining Area and the proposed West Nome Beach Public Mining Area is an issue of increasing concern. With the current high price of gold and increased interest in offshore mining there have been several incidents of friction between miners in the East Nome Beach Public Mining Area. Local police have been called on three occasions. There have also been some problems of miners in the public mining area straying onto leases held by other miners.

Permits and Stipulations for Use of the West Nome Beach Public Mining Area

As a result of the above management concerns, there will be new permitting requirements and permit stipulations for miners in both public mining areas. An Annual Placer Mining Application (APMA) and Miscellaneous Land Use Permit (MLUP) will be required for all sizes of dredges in both public mining areas. This requirement will allow the DNR to revoke permits for miners who do not follow the stipulations for operating in the public mining areas. Generally, the permit stipulations will apply in both public mining areas at Nome. The stipulations will be as follows:

1. In the West Nome Beach Public Mining Area miners will be limited to six-inch or less suction nozzles with no more than 18 hp pump engines. This limitation is to maintain the small/recreational mining character of the public mining area, and to extend the life of the resource in the new area.

2. Eight-inch Nozzles with 36 hp engines will be allowed in the East Nome Beach Public Mining Area.

3. Miners may not leave any type of marker to secure a location for their exclusive mining on future days. The miner only occupies a location while their dredge is on that location and in operation. Miners will not be allowed to leave their unoccupied dredges on site in order to preserve a location.

4. Miners must maintain a minimum 75’ distance between dredges. The first miner on site establishes their position; miners arriving later must locate with no part of their operation, dredge, anchors, or divers, less than 75’ from the first miner’s dredge.

5. State land begins at the mean high tide level. Since the average tide range at Nome is 1.04 feet, this means that in order to be on state land the miner must effectively be in the water. All of the uplands at Nome are privately owned. Therefore, highbankers can be used in the surf below mean high tide, but not higher up on the beach.

6. Because the uplands are all privately owned, any miner mining or camping on the beach or tundra above the beach will be in trespass unless they have permission from the land owner. Trespass is not allowed, and is grounds for revocation of the miner’s permit.

7. Permits can be revoked for failure to follow stipulations or for any actions that impede another miner’s ability to mine, or cause a threat to safety.

8. Permits can be revoked or denied for failure to file the appropriate Mining License Tax and Production Royalty returns.

9. Miners operating in either of the public mining areas will confine their operations to those public mining areas. Miners will not mine outside of the public mining area without an operator authorization, approved by the DMLW, from the adjacent lease holder.

10. No individual, association of individuals, or company may hold an interest in the operation of more than one suction dredge in the two public mining areas combined. The dredge may have only one hose and nozzle. The intent of this stipulation is to prevent any individual, association of individuals, or company from leasing out a number of dredges to be operated in the public mining areas and retaining a royalty on production from the dredges. Owners of dredges may rent multiple dredges to miners for use in the public mining areas, but the dredges must be rented at a set rental rate, with no royalty on production. No royalties (other than the Production Royalty owed to the State under AS 38.05.212) are to be paid on production from either of the public mining areas.

The proposed stipulations will aide in the management of both the East and West Nome Beach Public Mining Areas. The stipulations will also help prevent the friction that has begun to occur among dredgers. Requiring a permit for all suction dredgers will provide the DNR with knowledge of who is mining in the public mining areas, and a tool for enforcing adequate conduct.

Stipulation #3 will allow fair access to all miners. There will be no “staking a claim” to hold a spot in the public mining area indefinitely. The 75’ buffer between dredges required by stipulation #4 will further miners’ safety. Finally, requiring miners to obtain a permit will give the DNR a means of ensuring that all miners file appropriate Mining License Tax and Production Royalty returns. The DNR recognizes that compliance with permit stipulations will be increased with greater DNR presence. Therefore, the DNR will endeavor to provide greater presence in Nome during the mining season.

In addition to the DNR Miscellaneous Land Use Permit, suction dredgers may have to obtain permits from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Operators will also be subject to the Alaska Coastal Management Program. Under the APMA process, however, the DNR will distribute miners’ applications to these agencies for processing and permitting.

This chart was provided by DNR on3/27/2012:

When it comes to the leases, recreational areas and permitting, please refer people with questions to the following link: This link will be update periodically.

For mining on State Land or for off-shore recreational gold mining
State of Alaska
Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Division of Mining, Land & Water
DNR Public Information Center: (907) 269-8400

Permits -

Important Note 5/9/12 - The Port of Nome was over capacity last year (with lots of double parking being required), and the situation is expected to be much more crowded this year, permits for parking in the port will be limited. Plus parking along the Snake river bank has been restricted to specific areas so as to not conflict with public access to the river. Dredgers should plan for alternatives to mooring in the harbor. Contact the Harbormaster at

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