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Cononish, Scotland’s Only Commercial Gold Mine

Updated on December 4, 2012
Cononish Gold Mine
Cononish Gold Mine | Source

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.

nugget of Scots gold
nugget of Scots gold

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.

Cononish mine
Cononish mine

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.

Cononish mine
Cononish mine

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.

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    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 

      4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      The companies who mine in Arizona, USA find a lot of gold and silver as byproduct of copper mining. Most of it is open pit. But in my small mining town of Superior, Arizona, we have a very rich vein that runs in a big mountain range. It went north and then turned - I have heard it runs south now and is quite distant from the entrance now!

      Mineral rights law is something. In our state, the constitution was influenced by mining companies and outlawed the union. Luckily today we have better situation and pretty good wages for the workers, but it took a long time.

      As an aside, my grandfather came to this country from Scotland. Love to visit someday and find distant relatives.

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      Did you know that there is actually gold to be found in every single country in the world? There might not be a lot, but it's there - you just need to know ehere to look!

      Thanks for stopping by, Habee :)

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      I had no idea there was gold in Scotland! Fascinating hub!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      Weather at last turning gorgeous here. Still got the greenery of spring, in next month or two everything browns to summer.

      Thanks for commenting :)

      I think I should relocate to Scotland - gold n everything now!!

    • NeilRF profile image

      NeilRF 

      8 years ago from NE Scotland

      Hi IzzyM, Thanks for this hub. It confirms what my Grandpa said about the wealth of natural resources he felt sure lay in Scotland's hills! He died in the mid 60's before the oil boom and he'd have loved to have known of this.

      I think the company is taking a gamble on the price of gold staying high - but in the current economic climate, maybe not such a big one!!

      Weather here in NE Scotland 20C today and sunny - how's Spain?

      Hasta la vista! NeilRF

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      I think the tunnel is something like 1 kilometre long at the minute. Of course South Africa has just an amazing wealth of natural minerals. Gold, diamonds etc. I'm just amazed there is enough gold in Scotland to make it worth even opening a mine!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I found this Hub really interesting on two fronts, as it were. Firstly the Trossachs and Loch Lomond are of course MacGregor country, so anything that goes on there is of interest to me. Secondly gold and gold mining are so much a part of our lives here in South Africa, where our mines are deep level, going down to some two kilometres underground, necessitating elaborate headgear to get miners down the shafts and back up again. The idea of a mine that just has a tunnel into the side of a hill as in your pic here is totally amazing to me!

      Thanks so much for sharing

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      Cheers mate! You mean it wasn't interesting before? I think it's fascinating!! I'm beginning to think the 'Fool's Gold' I found as a child might have been the real thing - and I threw it away!!!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      8 years ago from UK

      Another subject turned into a thing of interest by our Izzy. :-)

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      @Patty, I was always interested but the whole time I lived as an adult in Scotland, I never had the time to go looking. I was a worker all my life. I wish now I'd made the time!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR

      IzzyM 

      8 years ago from UK

      @fishtiger - this company knows all about the environmental concerns, and I'm sure there will be minimal damage.

      What really gets me, is people from south of England cities who use the Scottish Highlands as their own private get-away-from-it-all playground, while people born and bred in the remote areas can't find work, nor buy property whose prices got pushed artificially high by second home owners.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I knew nothing of Scottish gold mines before Scottish Week at the HubMob. Good show! Thumbs up.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 

      8 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      Very interesting and I do hope they can mine the gold without to much damage to the environment.

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