Gold Mining in Michigan (2024)? All You Need to Know

Gold mining in Michigan - Facts

Michigan is a gold producing state, even though the precious metal is only a byproduct of a nickel and copper mine. Read in the article about the history of gold mining in the Michigan, about its only active gold producing mine and other facts and figures about gold mining in MI.

Is there Gold in Michigan?

Yes. Currently Michigan’s gold production comes from one mine, the Eagle Mine.

  • Current gold output only as a byproduct from the Eagle Mine owned by Lundin Mining Corp. This is the only primary nickel mine in the United States.
  • There is no public record of the amount of gold produced at the Eagle Mine.
  • The last and only profitable gold mine in the state, the Robes Gold Mine, closed in 1991.
  • The US Geological Survey lists around 70 sites with gold deposits in Michigan, most of them closed (for comparison: California has more than 20.000 gold sites). The majority are in Marquette county, such as the Eagle Project, the Gold Bluff Prospect and the High Point Gold Prospect
  • Significant historic gold mining districts are Bingham, Tintic, Camp Floyd and Park City, south and east of Salt Lake City.
  • There are several gold exploration projects in the state that might lead to mining operations.
Michigan Gold Mining in the Upper Peninsula, book cover
Michigan Gold Mining in the Upper Peninsula (book by Daniel Fountain).

Key Takeaways:

Fact Explanation
Remember Michigan is one of the gold producing states of the US; Gold output from only one mine, where the precious metal is a byproduct
Gold Deposits Yes
Discovery Year Early 1840s
Discoverer Dr. Douglass Houghton, Michigan’s first state geologist
Mining Industry Still active
Major Gold Locations In Marquette county
Major Active Gold Mines One mining operation left: the Eagle Mine
Mining Companies Lundin Mining Corp.
Panning Locations Grand River, Rapid River, Lake Leelanau, Little Sable River, Manistee Rive and Flat River

The following map of Michigan shows the first gold discovery and the location of the only gold-producing mine left in the state.

Map of gold mining in Michigan: first gold discovery by Douglass Houghton and the gold producing Eagle Mine.
Map of gold mining in Michigan: first gold discovery by Douglass Houghton and the gold producing Eagle Mine.

Sources: USGS, USGS

Where is Gold in Michigan?

Gold can be found in several locations throughout Michigan as widely scattered placer gold, but mostly at the Upper Peninsula. And here in Marquette country, the historical gold mining area of the state.

  1. Marquette County: Known for having the highest concentration of gold in Michigan. The county’s stream gravels and glacial moraine debris have been a source of placer gold.
  2. Isle Royale National Park: Located on Lake Superior, this remote island provides opportunities for gold panning along its sandy beaches and riverbeds.
  3. Keweenaw Peninsula: The ancient volcanic activity in this area has created potential for finding small traces of gold in metal-rich rocks.
  4. Grand River: As Michigan’s longest river, it has reported glacial gold deposits, especially in the areas around Ionia and the Portland State Game Area.
  5. Rapid River: Found in Kalkaska County in northern Michigan, the river has produced gold in its gravel bars.

See map of northwestern Michigan, with the Marquette Gold District indicated:

Mineral Ranges in Northwestern Michigan, with the Marquette Gold District (Michigan Tech Mining Engineering Department).
Mineral Ranges in Northwestern Michigan, with the Marquette Gold District (Michigan Tech Mining Engineering Department).

Sources: Michigan State University, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

What is the History of Gold Mining in Michigan?

The only area with historically significant gold output is in the Upper Peninsula, in Marquette County. Most of it from the Ropes Mine.

Who discovered gold in Michigan?

The history of gold in Michigan begins with Dr. Douglass Houghton, the state’s first geologist. In the early 1840s, Dr. Houghton conducted a geological survey of the Upper Peninsula, which led to the first recorded discovery of gold in the state. Its exact location is not recorded.

The early discoveries by Dr. Houghton set the stage for further exploration and eventual mining operations in Michigan, highlighting the state’s potential for gold mining

Was there a gold rush in Michigan?

Michigan’s gold discoveries, while significant enough to warrant gold mines, did not spark a major gold rush like those in California or Alaska. The gold finds in Michigan were more modest and sporadic, leading to localized mining efforts rather than a large-scale influx of prospectors. These smaller-scale operations reflected the nature of gold mining in the state, which was characterized by individual miners and small groups rather than massive crowds of fortune seekers.

When did industrial gold mining start in Michigan?

Industrial gold mining in Michigan took off with the establishment of the Ropes Gold Mine in the 1880s, following the initial discoveries in the earlier part of the century. This mine, located in the Upper Peninsula, was the first major gold mining operation in the state and experienced periods of profitability. The success of the Ropes Mine and other similar ventures demonstrated the viability of gold mining in Michigan, despite the challenges and the region’s more famous copper and iron resources.

Robes mine, the only commercially successful gold mine in Michigan.
Robes mine, the only commercially successful gold mine in Michigan.

The Ropes mine was first in operation until 1887. Then again from 1900 to 1901. During this time, additional gold was reclaimed with a newly developed method, the cyanide leaching process. Mining resumed in the 1970s. The only profitable mine in Michigan closed again in 1991. Other gold mines were the Michigan Gold Mine and the Gold Lake

More than 800 underground mines were developed in Michigan. Most of them iron or copper mine, and only a small number for gold extraction.

The decline of gold mining in Michigan

As the 20th century progressed, many of Michigan’s gold mines began to see diminishing returns and eventually ceased operations. This decline marked the end of the more active period of gold mining in the state. However, the legacy of these early mining endeavors remains a significant part of Michigan’s industrial heritage. Today, the historic gold mine sites in Michigan are remembered for their contribution to the state’s mining history, with some locations being preserved for historical and educational purposes. ​

Sources: Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan History, Michigan State University

How much gold has been mined in Michigan?

Total gold production in Michigan was 29,000 ounces until 1959.

Source: USGS

What is the Current State of Gold Mining in Michigan?

With the closure of the Ropes Gold Mine in 1991, Michigan lost its last and only (profitable) gold mine. Since then, the only active gold extraction comes from the Eagle Nickel and Copper Mine where gold is only a byproduct. The mine is in operation since 2017.

What is the major gold mine in Michigan?

The US Geological Survey Minerals Yearbook lists in its most recent overview of 44 leading gold operations in the US only one gold producing operation in the state of Michigan: the Eagle Mine (owned by Lundin Mining Corp.).

The US state leading the ranking is Nevada with 27 operations, followed by Alaska with four operations.

List of the gold operations in Michigan:

US Rank Operation County and State Majority Owner (2024) Qty
2020
Qty
2021
Eagle Mine Marquette, MI Lundin Mining Corp.

Explanation:                                                                               

Rank: a comparison of the output of US mines. Eight of the ten biggest mines are in Nevada and one in Alaska and one in Colorado.

Quantity: quantity and rank withheld to not disclose proprietary information

Check out the video about the Eagle Mine underground tour:

Facts about the Eagle Mine

  • Located in Marquette County
  • Underground mine, the only mine in the US with nickel as a primary output
  • Apart from nickel and copper, it produces small amounts of gold, platinum, silver, gold and cobalt
  • Two mineralized zones: Eagle East and Eagle West
  • Owned by Lundin Mining Corp.
  • In operation only since 2017
  • Mine life to 2029
  • The mine is accessed not through elevators but through a mile-long tunnel
  • The mine is the deepest point in the US with 1,774 feet below sea level, where a car can be driven

Check out the video about a Prosche being driven in the mine to set a new Guinness World Record:

Sources: company website

What Companies Mine Gold in Michigan?

Lundin Mining is the owner of the only gold-producing mine in Michigan.

Some facts about the company:

  • Mining company headquartered in Toronto
  • Founded in 1994 by Adolf Lundin
  • Six operations: Caserones, Candelaria Mining Complex (both in Chile), Chapada (Brazil), Eagle (US), Neves-Corvo (Portugal), Zinkgruvan (Sweden)
  • One project: Josemaria (Chile)

Check out a video about Lundin Operations:

Sources: company website

Where are New Gold Mines Explored or Developed in Michigan?

There are several gold exploration projects in Michigan:

The Keel Project

  • Third mineralized zone in the Eagle Mine. Expected to begin producing in 2024.

Back Forty Project

  • Developed by Gold Resource Corp.
  • Located in Menominee County, Upper Peninsula
  • Projects consists of two underground and one open pit mine
  • 9 year mine life
  • Production of gold, silver, copper and zinc
  • Encouraging initial assessment with mineral resource update from end of 2023

Sources: dbusiness

Is it Legal to Mine Gold in Michigan?

In Michigan, recreational panning for gold is allowed on public lands without a permit.

However, larger methods such as dredging and high banking require a permit on public lands. There are also restrictions, such as not being allowed to prospect for gold on trout streams or areas with known mussel beds. Additionally, there are limits on the amount of gold that can be taken in any given year, and power sluicing is prohibited. Some areas are closed to recreational gold panning to protect critical habitat, including state-designated trout streams, natural rivers, and natural areas.

Therefore, while it is generally legal to mine gold in Michigan for recreational purposes, there are specific regulations and restrictions that prospectors need to be aware of.

Sources: news advocate, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Where Can I Pan for Gold in Michigan?

Check out the video about gold prospecting in Michigan:

In Michigan, there are several locations where you can pan for gold:

  • Various Rivers and Creeks: Gold can be found throughout Michigan, particularly in both the upper and lower peninsulas. Some notable rivers and creeks where gold has been found include:
    • Grand River and Maple River in Ionia County
    • Rapid River in Kalkaska County
    • Muskegon in Newaygo County
    • White River in Oceana County
    • Manistee River in Wexford County
    • Many streams in Marquette County near the Ropes Gold Mine
    • Flat River in Ontonagon County
  • Upper Peninsula and Marquette County: These areas are known for their rich mineral deposits and scenic landscapes, making them perfect for gold panning.
  • Isle Royale National Park: Located on Lake Superior, this remote island offers a unique setting for panning along beaches or riverbeds.
  • Keweenaw Peninsula: The geological history of this area makes it a potential spot for finding gold.
  • Gold Panning Tours and Clubs: Michigan offers various gold panning tours and has active gold prospecting clubs, like the Michigan Gold Prospectors (MGP) and the Gold Prospectors Association of America – Lansing Chapter, which provide resources and opportunities for gold panning enthusiasts.

Source: Michigan State University

Is There Gold in Other US States?

Check out gold production in neighboring states of Michigan: Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGC), there are 11 states that mine gold and contribute towards the gold mining statistic: Nevada is responsible for the majority of gold output, around 72%, followed by Alaska (13%). 9 other contribute in sum to the remaining 15% of gold production: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

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