Learn about the harmful and controversial practice of suction dredge mining in rivers of North Central Idaho. Suction dredging uses a motorized pump mounted on a floating platform to suck up stream beds in the search for gold. Sand, gravel, and silt are then discharged back into the stream. Heavy metals such as mercury, left in historic mine tailings may be remobilized and bioaccumulate in aquatic food chains. Negative impacts include damage to macroinvertebrate communities, riparian zones and water quality that may adversely affect salmon, steelhead and bull trout rearing and spawning habitat. This video also captures the attitudes and illegal behavior of certain miners who refuse to obtain the necessary permits from state and federal agencies. Although allowed in Idaho with proper permits, there has been a surge in illegal suction dredge mining on the South Fork of the Clearwater River.
A federal court recently upheld California’s ban on dredging for gold. A federal court recently upheld Oregon’s ban on dredging in waterways that support imperiled salmon or steelhead. Washington is set to begin a rulemaking process which would regulate dredging in the state.