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JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) -- Officials say they'll probably grant permission to a Utah man who wants to dig for gold on a 5-acre claim in Bridger-Teton National Forest.
David Sturlin of Garrison, Utah, wants to dig as many as 20 test holes up to 12 feet wide on the parcel in the Gros Ventre area, according to forest officials.
If Sturlin finds gold -- lately fetching $800 an ounce -- he might then expand the mining operation to more than 340 acres nearby.
Jackson District Ranger Dale Deiter said an 1872 mining law would make it difficult for the Forest Service to stop the project. Permission would be granted because the 5-acre project is too small to require an environmental review under federal law.
"We've got to give consideration to the proposal," Deiter said. "It's not really anything we can deny."
Under the mining law, the Forest Service can dictate the timing of the operation, as well as specifics about reclamation and access to the site.
Sturlin said he would use a process called electrostatic separation, which uses air and electrically charged plates to separate gold from gravel.
He said the process is more environmentally friendly than other extraction techniques using cyanide or mercury. He said that unlike other techniques, the process wouldn't require water or affect nearby streams.
He said he would refill holes before moving to the next test site. "We'll stay within the boundaries that they've prescribed -- right off the road, which gives us the easiest access in," he said.
Sturlin said he has family roots in Jackson dating to 1920. His family has mined the claim since 1962 without making money.
Jonathan Ratner, director of the Wyoming office of Western Watershed Project, said the proposed mining concerned him.
"I don't really care how small it is, this is an area you do not need to be bulldozing," he said. "I deal with the Forest Service every day. They always have tons of time, money and resources to transfer public property to private profit."
Information from: Jackson Hole News & Guide
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)