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Can one search for gold in Sweden, and what should one do if, for example, they find gold coins or gold jewelry in nature – or for that matter, on their own property? Are they allowed to keep them?
Yes, it can actually be the case that you get to keep the gold you find, or at least receive compensation for it. But it depends on whether it’s gold in mineral form, an object, or an ancient find.
If you plan to go on a gold hunt, there are some rules to consider first. In this article, we explain what applies.
Let’s start at the beginning – how does one find gold?
You, who are reading this, are most likely a private individual, and thus we can exclude all industrial processes, including prospecting, establishing a gold mine, and then extracting gold through electrolysis, gravity separation, and chemical processes. Right?
So how can a private individual extract gold in Sweden? There are two ways:
The next question is whether it’s illegal to search for gold in Sweden. No, it’s not illegal, but there are several rules that you need to know before you go hunting for El Dorado.
The Mineral Act stipulates what applies to the extraction of gold and other minerals. Simply put, as a private individual, you can pan for gold on a small scale (as a hobby) if you ask the landowner first.
This assumes that you do it by hand with a panning dish and then completely restore the site. Remember not to pan in protected watercourses or on private property.
A tip is to join a gold panning association. They often have their own so-called claims where members can pan.
If, on the other hand, you want to extract gold on a slightly larger scale and make money from it, you need to apply for permission from “Bergsstaten.” This is the authority in Sweden that handles permits for prospecting and mining.
It is legal to use a metal detector in Sweden, but you need permission from the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen). This is regulated by the Cultural Heritage Act and is intended to protect the ancient remains in our country.
At the time of writing, it costs 870 kronor to apply for permission, and you have to pay the fee whether you get permission or not. The application applies to a limited place, so you need to choose the location carefully. Check that there are no ancient remains nearby – because then the application will not be granted.
Can you keep the gold you find? It depends. If you pan for gold at the hobby level (and have the landowner’s permission), you can keep the gold grains you find.
If you find gold objects, different rules apply. Already in the 17th century, there was a law in Sweden that determined that all found objects of gold, silver, or copper that are found and are over 100 years old must be handed over to the state.
Thanks to this law, the fascinating collection in the gold room at the Historical Museum in Stockholm has been created over centuries by the handing in of found gold. Who knows, maybe your gold find will end up there!
Today, the following applies:
For lost property, the law requires that you hand it in to the Police within 14 days. If the owner comes forward or is found by the Police within three months, you receive a finder’s fee of 10 percent of the value.
If no owner is found, you who found the gold object become the owner but may have to pay a small fee for the storage of the item by the Police.
If the gold object you found is from before 1850, the law says you are obliged to offer the state to redeem it. This is called a home offer obligation.
You are, however, entitled to compensation. How much depends on where you find the gold:
However, remember that if the find is on a ship that may have sunk before 1850, it must not be removed from the site.
As you notice, it’s not entirely easy to keep track of all the rules that apply to searching for gold in Sweden. Let’s summarize: If you want to pan for gold for fun, you basically only need the owner’s permission and ensure that it’s not a protected area or that a company already has permission there.
For gold objects you find, if they are from 1850 or later, you must first take them to the Police. This could be a gold watch, gold ring, or gold jewelry that someone lost.
Objects from before 1850 are classified as ancient finds, and you must inform the state about these. Here, it could be gold coins, a gold treasure, mythological objects, or jewelry.
If you found the gold by chance near an ancient site, you get 10% of the value. If you found it elsewhere, you are entitled to full compensation, or you get to keep the gold if the state doesn’t want it.
Also, remember to apply for permission from the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen) if you plan to use a metal detector to search for gold!