Most gold mining in Virginia was concentrated in the Virginia Gold-Pyrite belt in a line that runs northeast to southwest through the counties of Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Fauquier, Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Orange, Louisa, Fluvanna, Goochland, Cumberland, and Buckingham. Some gold was also mined in Halifax, Floyd, and Patrick counties.
The earliest recording of gold mining activity in Virginia began about 1804 as placer mining, followed quickly by lode mining. Mining continued unabated until the onset of the California Gold Rush, at which point most serious speculators moved west. Production continued at a low level until the Civil War, when it virtually ground to a halt.
Near the end of the war, Union troops began a systematic campaign to destroy the economic base of the South. Many gold mines were subsequently damaged beyond repair. Most were, by this time, marginal producers, their ores of such low concentrate as to stretch the limits of the mercury amalgam recovery technology of the day. Many of these mines never reopened.
Other mines did, however, and gold production in Virginia continued until World War II, when, on October 8, 1942, the War Production Board issued Limitation Order L-208, which branded gold production as a non-essential and directed all but the smallest of gold mines to shut down so their labor force could be used elsewhere to support the war effort.
Economic conditions following the war were such that few miners returned to mining, so only a handful of mines reopened. For all practical purposes, commercial gold production in Virginia ceased after 1948.
At its peak, Virginia was the third largest gold producing state, and the heart of the gold production area was at the junction of Spotsylvania, Culpeper, and Orange counties near Wilderness.
Over 300 claims and mines are known to have existed in Virginia, yet very few, if any at all, are commercially active at this time. Amateur and hobby prospecting continues to this day, primarily consisting of individual or small scale placer operations. Many hobbyists simply use a gold pan or a sluice box.