Cononish, Scotland’s Only Commercial Gold Mine
An old gold mine in Scotland is being resurrected by Australian company Scotgold Resources Limited who are awaiting planning permission to operate the Cononish Goldmine in Tyndrum that they bought in 1997, when gold prices were too low to make the previous venture viable.
Since gold prices have now risen to record highs, the venture is very much a going concern and the gold mining company should see a return on their initial investment in as little as two years from opening.
Gold prices have tripled since 1997 when it was £250 per ounce to its present day high of £750.
The mine, situated with the boundaries of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, is causing problems for campaigners who don’t want the natural wild beauty of the countryside damaged.
Local businesses and politicians, including the Tyndrum Community Council, have thrown their weight behind the company which promises to bring much-needed jobs to the sparsely populated area.
Campaigners believe the mine could cause environmental damage in the area which is very close to the famous West Highland Way, a route very popular with walkers and tourists.
The keepers of Loch Lomond National Park themselves have no problem with the mine re-opening and Gordon Watson from the National Park Authority is quoted as saying “We have to safeguard the head waters of the River Tay, which lie directly in the area, and we will do that vigorously.”
"But we are also very aware that gold isn't something that's found every day, so we are looking at this as positively as we can.”
Absolutely classic line! Gold isn’t something that is found every day.
When Scotgold bought the mine, they also bought the rights to mine for minerals in a 2,200 square kilometre area around the mine from previous owners, Finegold Exploration.
Test drilling in the area suggests there could be up to five times as much gold in deposit than previously estimated. There is also reckoned to be at least 17 tonnes of silver waiting to be mined.
Scotgold Resources recently floated themselves on the London Stock Market and hope to raise another £2m from the Alternative Investment Market.
They hope to raise this money for further development and exploration of the mine which already had the necessary infrastructure put in place by the previous owners, including the installation of underground rail lines.
It is believed it will cost the company a further £12m to actually open the mine for production.
The gold itself is to be found in the same Dalriadan rock strata which stretches across to Co. Tyrone in N. Ireland where the UK’s largest goldmine is located.
The rock itself contains a mixture of quartz and pyrites, and for every tonne of rock mined, 10 grams of gold is expected to be extracted – enough for a large wedding ring.
According to Chris Sangster, Scotgold’s chief executive , they expect to extract 200kgs of gold annually, with a further 500kgs to be extracted by specialised equipment off site.
The company plan to use chemical-free heavy rock crushing equipment and water to extract the gold from the rock.
The broken remains of rock are known as “tailings” and they will be stored beside the mouth of the mine, behind raised dykes.
However, they will still be visible to climbers on the nearby mountains, such as Ben Lui.
However, no other suggestions on how to dispose of the estimated 500,000 tonnes of waste have been put forward.
Under UK law, the crown has an automatic right to the profit from any mining of minerals, and will receive 4% of the mine’s profits when it opens.
There are exceptions to this and both of them are in Scotland.
The Duke of Argyll on the west coast and the Duke of Sutherland in the north were gifted mineral rights by previous monarchs, and so any gold-mining that takes place in these areas will profit both private individuals who are remnants of a feudal system that should long ago have been disbanded.
The farmer on whose land Connonish Goldmine is situated can expect to receive rental from the mining company, which I’m sure he’ll be delighted about as it is doubtful if his farm can be profitable in such an alien environment as the Highlands of Scotland.
In October, 2011, planing permission was finally granted to Scotgold to open the gold mine at Cononish.
It is hoped that the local community will benefit with the increase in jobs.