Canada is one of the best countries for metal detecting and gold prospecting (not so much for treasure hunting if you want to know!), so many wannabe detectorists become interested in whether they can detect, how, where, and what laws are applied. It is important to be aware of the legislation and rules applied in different provinces, and it is also important to be aware of the peculiarities of metal detecting in Canada. Unless a wannabe detectorist joins a local club, they are likely to make many typical newbie mistakes.
However, this is where Detect History has your back covered. In this detailed overview, you will learn everything about Canadian laws on metal detecting, prohibitions, locations, potential finds, gold prospecting, and much more. Check out the overview to start metal detecting with success.
Besides typical potential finds for hobby detecting (more on them later in the overview), Canada is rich in various metals and minerals, including valuable metals like gold. However, at the same time, Canada is a complicated place for detectorists, especially for beginners and those metal detecting with hand-held equipment.
Canada is a rather cold region, so most of the year, metal detecting without special equipment is kinda impossible for individual detectorists. The country is also rough in weather and climate sometimes, plus the terrain is complicated. Huge regions are covered with woods, other regions are rocky. Canadian soils are also very various; typical soils can be Brunisol, Luvisol, Vertisol, Gleysol, Solonetz, Organic, Cryosol, Chernozem, Podzol, Regosol, meaning that the ground mineralization differs a lot from region to region.
All these peculiarities make Canada a very desired region for detecting, but a very complicated region indeed, and beginners may find it too hard to start there. However, beginner detectorists can take advantage of “Time to Detect”, the Detect History’s book written specifically with their needs in mind. This book will explain all the crucial aspects of metal detecting, warn about typical widespread mistakes, and provide some “make or break” tips that can save the day for many treasure hunters.
Take Adventage of Our Ultimate Metal Detecting Guide for Beginners
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Disclaimer: The laws described below were in place at the time of writing the overview. Legislation can change quickly, though, and unfortunately Detect History can miss that point of time when it changes in Canada, and update the post much later. So, please always double-check on metal detecting legislation in your jurisdiction, and make sure you get recent information from official sources like relevant local authority.
At the time of writing, there are no regulations against metal detecting on the beaches and public parks. All other locations, such as National Parks, woods, territories of towns and villages, areas around archaeological sites, etc., have their own regulations and laws.
There are two main sets of law that regulate metal detecting activities in Canada on a federal level. These are Canada National Parks Act that articulates what is allowed or prohibited in national protected areas, and a list of Historical Resources Acts for different provinces; Historical Resources acts articulate the ways of protection and preservation of archaeological sites, whether registered on unregistered, and other historically or culturally significant sites.
In the majority of provinces and territories, metal detecting without major mining activities is allowed on public lands like parks, areas around towns and villages, beaches, woods, fields, river banks, etc.
Of course it is always better to find out exactly about rules applied in any location you are about to visit. The best strategy is to contact the local authority like park or beach management, and ask what activities are allowed, and whether a permit is needed.
As a rule, metal detecting in Canada is prohibited on protected areas like industrial areas, historical and archaeological sites, cemeteries and tribal lands, national parks, and of course private property without the permit to enter and detect.
Seeing the list of prohibitions, a beginner detectorist not backed by a local club starts wondering where they can even go to start detecting, without getting into trouble? Below, Detect History provides a short overview of places you can visit for some hobby detecting and treasure hunting.
Public lands are allowed for metal detecting, but what locations can be fruitful in terms of finds? You can check out the following places:
There are also quite popular locations in Canada where metal detecting activity can bring lots of results. If you are into touristic mood, check out the following places:
Entry and metal detecting on private property are allowed only after given permission from the landowner, in some cases it is better to get a written permission if the landowner is not your relative or friend. Also, if you expect any valuable finds on private property, you should get the owner’s consent and agree on compensation if something valuable is spotted.
Canada has complicated laws on the aspect of ownership of objects found during a hobby metal detecting activity.
According to most provinces’ legislation, if any archaeological site or object is spotted, it does not belong to the landowner or finder, but rather to the Crown, even if the land is private property.
The Common Laws states that the one who finds an item on land (but not beneath it!) keeps it. The Common Laws also states that artifacts found without a license belong to the landowner, but not to the finder. In some provinces, the law on ownership depends on previous history behind the land; if the land has been public (belonged to the Crown) since a certain date, finds belong to the crown, too; if the land has been private since a certain date, the find is co-owned by the finder and the landowner.
As you can see, there is basically no law in Canada that states finders keepers. In the best case possible, the finder will have to share the find or its value with the landowner. However, if the landowner on their own spots a valuable find on their land, the find belongs to them.
According to the Canadian law, almost all national parks are closed for metal detecting activities of any kind but officially agreed upon for archaeological or other purposes. The only exception that can be made for individuals with hand-held equipment is to get a permit by the Superintendent of the park. Detecting without such permit is an offence under the Canada National Parks Act, and the persecution will result in equipment confiscation and impressive fines.
If you would like to try your luck and ask for a permit from a park’s Superintendent, here is the list of parks to check out:
There are basically no regulations that would prohibit metal detecting on the beaches in Canada. If you are into beach metal detecting and treasure hunting and shallow water detecting, check out these places:
However, if you have plans about deep underwater detecting or diving nearby Canadian beaches, please make sure you contact the local authorities and the beach management to double-check this activity is allowed. High chances you will need a special permit, and certain restrictions will be applied to your search session (like allowed detecting only within the swimming area).
According to the general Canadian law, prospectors must apply for a special permit; new permits are granted and old ones are renewed from December to February. Prospecting permit is not needed to stake a mineral claim.
Prospecting permits allow mining and detecting on a large area without competition from 3 to 5 years. After your permit expires, other people may stake claims on the area, but you will not be allowed to stake new claims on the same area for one year.
An application for a prospecting permit costs $25 plus a 10 cents/acre deposit for the first work period. Most prospectors only need to get the license, without the need to stake claims. After they are granted a license, they have 14 days to work in the same area. After that period, they have to move away from the place of previous prospecting (minimum 100 meters away). All prospectors must pay royalty for all gold retrieved during the license year. If the amount of gold was less than 31.1g, no royalty is due, if more – 5% royalty is to be paid.
The most common way of locating gold is panning near the rivers and lakes. Metal detecting gold dust or nuggets is less widespread, mostly because one needs equipment more complicated and expensive than a pan. Moreover, if you are only to use a pan for gold mining, you don’t need a license, while using any metal detector equipment requires a license.
List of provinces in terms of gold production (ranking from the most productive to less productive)
Besides gold dust and nuggets (or gold ore veins if you are lucky!), you can also spot the following items, metals, minerals, and gems, when metal detecting in Canada:
Some Canadian provinces can also be potentially fruitful in terms of ancient relics and historical finds, but these are comparatively few if contrasted to other regions, say, the US or UK. The most promising areas are battlefields, old cities and towns, and Eastern coasts that accepted most colonists back in the days of colonization. Perhaps Native American tribal lands would bring lots of interesting finds, but these territories are not allowed for detecting without special permission.
In metal detecting Alberta, hobby detecting is allowed without license under conditions that the detectorist obeys all the federal and province Alberta metal detecting laws on treasure hunting discussed above (and this rule applied to any other province or territory we will discuss further).
Talking about hobby detecting, gold panning is the most popular recreational activity in Alberta. Some parks even offer tourist tours on gold panning. Gold can be panned on Red Deer, North Saskatchewan, McLeod, Athabasca and Peace River Systems. However, the local government does not make maps for hobby prospectors. This province is famous for many other metals and minerals, so lots of industrial mining takes place already.
For metal detecting in BC, all places are allowed for metal detecting which are not legally prohibited by metal detecting laws in BC. The most fun activity to pursue for hobby enthusiasts is prospecting, of course. Prospecting is possible in the streams and rivers, and also near historic mines. Tools most widely used are pans and sluice boxes.
Talking about large-scale detecting and mining metal detecting BC, British Columbia is rich in copper, gold, molybdenum, lead, and zinc.
Metal detecting Manitoba is very protective of its historical sites and archaeological locations, so any heritage sites are protected by the law and cannot be places for detecting even with a permit. Moreover, in most public parks, the detectorist will have to get the permission of the park workers, and even point out the places where they want to dig before digging. So, Manitoba does not seem a very metal detectorist friendly province.
In terms of gold prospecting, Manitoba is rich in minerals and metals, including gold. Many old mines are still active, and claims are staked. So, individual prospectors can also try their luck with gold.
New Brunswick is another archaeologically protective province. Metal detecting is not illegal in the area, but the major problem is that most detectorists fail to report archaeological finds, especially significant ones, so treasure hunting is not in favour. On the other hand, New Brunswick is a comparatively overlooked region for gold prospecting, and those prospectors who are aware of the province’s potentially fruitful places are usually pretty successful.
Metal detecting hobby is not illegal in Newfoundland and Labrador, as long as the purpose of Newfoundland metal detecting is to collect valuables other than historic resources. Unauthorized usage of metal detectors (that is, without license and without official reason to operate in the area), to remove any historical resources from the ground, is prohibited. Removing historical artifacts is equal to stealing from the province, and will lead to persecution.
As for gold prospecting, the province is not very promising, since gold mines are only situated on the Island of Newfoundland.
Metal detecting Nova Scotia hobby is not illegal as it is, but there is a weird formula of the law that states that using a metal detector “for non-intrusive scanning” is allowed in some areas of the province, mostly on private property with the landowner’s permission. This non-intrusive scanning thing does not make digging finds really legal, although there is no more comprehensive explanation.
Moreover, there are laws that protect local historical artifacts and historical sites, making metal detecting literally impossible in most of the province. Detecting on any registered archaeological site or site of “high archaeological potential” is strictly prohibited, and again, any site can theoretically turn out to be of high archaeological potential.
As for prospecting, small-scale detectorists usually find gold dust or some decent nuggets, but the province does not seem to be very rich in gold. Where to go to metal detecting in Nova Scotia? Most often rivers and creeks.
There are no additional specific regulations on metal detecting Ontario besides those general metal detecting in Ontario laws we have discussed above. Most public places are allowed, while national parks, private property and other restricted areas are prohibited. Ontario is rich in gold, so both large-scale miners and individual prospectors work there. In addition to gold, the province is also rich in metal detecting finds in Ontario such as palladium, platinum, copper, zinc, diamonds, nickel, and silver.
Prince Edward Island does not seem to be promising in terms of metal detecting or prospecting. Local authorities protect historical heritage and also paleontological sites, so not much relic hunting can be done. Gold prospecting is not popular in this province, either. While metal detecting is legal, there is not much to detect but small regular finds.
Quebec does not have anything against metal detecting if metal detecting activity follows the general laws discussed above. Moreover, metal detecting Quebec is very welcoming for individual prospectors, because the province is rich in gold. Recreational gold mining is allowed and tours are organized by some parks on a regular basis. Most often, prospectors find gold nuggets.
Other metals and minerals Quebec is rich in include copper, zinc, diamonds, silver, titanium, nickel, platinum, and iron.
Saskatchewan allowed all metal detecting activities that were not prohibited, but according to the recent information, the province becomes more prohibiting due to lots of damage done by uncaring treasure hunters in public parks and other places. Moreover, there are strict laws protecting archaeological and historically significant sites, so relic hunting is close to impossible in the province.
Talking about gold, Saskatchewan has a curious form of gold called gold flour. It is often found in local rivers, and it is hard to pan, in contrast to nuggets or large flakes. And yet, some recreational panning takes place in many parks.
Northwest Territories allow hobby detecting unless it damages historical sites, and welcome gold panning, but the problem is that the area is not very favourable for such activities. On the other hand, there is a lot of mining taking place, and Northwest Territories are rich in diamonds, the deposits of which were discovered back in the 90s. So, detecting is not illegal here, but the enthusiasts are unlikely to find much more than some regular items.
Nunavut has no specific prohibitions for hobby detecting or individual detecting/prospecting. Some locations require permits from local authorities, while in all other aspects, this province follows the same general laws discussed above.
Talking about gold, Nunavut is not very advantageous for individual prospectors due to harsh soil conditions and climate, despite the fact that the region is rich in gold and also iron.
Yukon is famous for its gold and other metals, and it is most rich in gold, silver, and copper. It was a place of the Gold Rush in the previous centuries, and today, recreational gold panning is very much widespread in the region. The most popular places include Klondike, Kluane, Southern Lakes, Whitehorse Region. There are no specific laws or prohibitions in Yukon, so many detectorists and prospectors try their luck there.
Beginner detectorists wanting to explore all those promising areas discussed above can do so alone or with like-minded friends, but in fact one of the best options is to join one of the local metal detecting clubs. Being a member of a metal detecting or prospecting club has loads of advantages, including the tightly knit community of like-minded people, company for search sessions and travelling to remote locations, option to borrow or rent a metal detector from another member, recommendations, tips, and shared experience from more seasoned detectorists, etc. Some recommendations and tips can be found on a metal detecting forum, of course; one of the biggest Canadian metal detecting forums is Canadian Metal Detecting. However, we still believe that community is important. If you share this opinion, check out the list of metal detecting and gold prospecting clubs for each province.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
If you would like to start the hobby of metal detecting, for recreational purposes or for profit, you definitely need equipment in the first place. Metal detectors and accessories can be purchased from your local dealers in every province, but you can also order from Amazon where the choice of metal detecting machines is very impressive. If you would like to learn more about metal detecting and get some tips and tricks for starters, you can get our book also available on Amazon or Kindle.
Coins are the most popular and widespread metal detecting finds for all metal detectorists, generally regardless of location. Metal detecting for coins can be found in public places like parks and beaches, along the roadsides and on town squares, around and inside abandoned buildings, in ghost towns, on river banks and in water bodies, on camping sites, playgrounds, sports grounds, picnic areas, and even nearby old trees in the forest. You can check out what metal detectors work best for coin shooting.
Choosing a metal detector is a complicated task that takes more than comparing prices, or getting the most expensive machine you can afford hoping it will magically do everything for you. The first thing to consider when choosing a metal detector is your most probable locations where you will search. Consider geography and climate, too. The second thing to consider is your preferred or most probable finds. And eventually, you should consider your knowledge and skills, and your budget. If you would like to learn more about factors that influence the choice of a metal detector, check out this guideline.
There are many options where to buy a metal detector. You can buy a used one from a friend or club member, or from a third person. Even local retailers sometimes sell used metal detectors. If you want a new one, you can purchase it in the local retailer’s office, on their website, or on Amazon. There are many platforms that sell metal detectors.
Metal detecting is a hobby that requires passion, knowledge, learning, practice, skills, experience, time, space, investments, and everything at the same time. So, metal detecting is not something with an easy entry. If you are not sure whether you will pursue this hobby long enough, or whether you will even like it, you may start from borrowing or renting a metal detector for beginners, and give it a try. If you like it, you can get yourself a used machine and enter a club, or start detecting with a friend. If you would like to learn more about this hobby, you can take advantage of our blog or metal detecting book for beginners.
First things first, cleaning coins is not recommended until you seek advice from the expert and make sure you know the value of the coin. Some old and rare coins are extremely valuable, but they are also extremely fragile and easy to damage if you start rubbing or brushing them. So, before you take any steps on cleaning any coin, make sure you know it can be cleaned without being damaged, and that it won’t be more valuable if not cleaned.
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