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Where to Find Gold in the British Isles
Britain a Land of Mineral Wealth.
Britain has always been an Island desired by others for its abundance of riches. Whether it was the good quality farmland, the vast tracks of ancient woodland or the mineral wealth which lay below the surface of its green and pleasant land. We know that a succession of European peoples had attempted to secure the wealth of the British Isles over the years. This is evident in the rich multicultural society and history that we see today.
Romans, Normans, Vikings, Celts and Saxons have all attempted to claim the bounty of the lands as their own. The one prize which is always held in high regard is gold. It is a metal that is rare in the British Isles, but has this always been the case?
We know that there are locations around the British Isles that still hold gold. I have highlighted a few of them in previous articles such as.........
Gold is no longer easy to find.
We know that Great Britain and the British Isles has many natural reserves of raw materials. Many of the resources which were once mined, have ceased to be exploited on a commercial scale. This is due to a number of factors, but mainly because the raw material can be mined elsewhere for a fraction of the cost and without the associated dangers present to the would be miner.
Gold is a mineral that has always held value and if Great Britain had viable goldmines then they would have continued to mine the gold, despite the risks. Trying to find locations where gold was once mined is no easy task, having looked into the etymology of British place names. I looked for places which may have had links to the mining of gold. The Norse, Roman, Saxon, Celtic and Norman words for gold were all varied as they had no common name for the precious metal. I have so far found no links to any surviving British settlement with a name highlighting past gold reserves or extensive mining activity.
This leads me to believe there was probably no intensive permanent gold mining sites in the English speaking area of the British Isles. But we know that gold was mined by the Romans in Wales and the people of Scotland had some small scale mines in the Cononish area near Tyndrum.
The most likely source of gold material in the Iron Age for the British was probably standing deposits around the country, these deposits may have been found in limited locations throughout the British Isles but they would soon be exploited. It may have been available in small amounts for the Ancient Britons to fashion into jewellery or they relied on the imports of Irish gold from across the sea. Failing that, before the Roman invasion, the indigenous Britons could have imported most of their gold from Continental Europe.
Names for Gold in the Invader's Tongue.
When we look at the British Isles on a geological scale, it would seem the best area to find precious metals such as gold is in the western areas of the landmass. This is due to the type of rock that is prominent in the area. Gold will come up from the Earth's core, where it will nestle in exposed and weathered ancient lava. The rule of thumb is that, if there is quartz crystal exposed with a yellow tinge, then you have a reasonable chance of finding a trace of gold. Areas in the United Kingdom which have this kind of geological feature include Devon, Cornwall, Wales, Gloucestershire and the western coast of Scotland.
Another location where gold could have been acquired by our ancestors and perhaps by gold miners today, is by panning the rivers and streams that drain off from the higher elevations to the west.
There is also a slim chance that there maybe gold in nearly all the coastal rivers and streams in the British Isles. This is due to the theory that gold is constantly been replenished by water eroding the rocks and river beds.
As gold is nearly thirty times heavier than water it is often found on the bedrock of river beds. Another location worthy of investigation is the area surrounding the bottom of a waterfall, although there is an obvious danger from the force of the water. The surrounding area could hold a reasonable amount of gold bearing material though.
The water cycle is responsible for the worlds sea water holding millions of tons of gold particles beneath the waves. But to extract them would be a costly process that would reduce any chance of profiting from such an endeavour.
Gold panning in the rivers and streams of Great Britain could yield as much as $43 for one gram of gold. Although like fishing there is no guarantee that you will get anything, but there is more chance if your succeeding by doing rather than dreaming. The dream of hitting the pay dirt is a desire which all of us would like to experience and with untapped reserves waiting to be discovered. Is there a chance to emulate the Gold Rushes of America, Canada and Australia?
It would be on a much smaller scale, but when it comes to gold- we are still allowed to dream.
Update on Mining Precious Metals in Scotland.
It has been reported in the national press (19/02/2017) that the Cononish gold and silver mine at Tyndrum is to apply for a fresh license to mine fresh reserves of both gold and silver. The mine had previously been processing a stockpile of ore and now that this reserve is close to depletion, full underground extraction is expected to begin sooner rather than later.
The current plan of the owners is to extract over 200,000 ounces from the site, which is subject to approval by both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority. The owners believe they will be successful as they have made their mine very environmentally friendly, which is hopefully going to sway the authorities opinion to look favourably over their action plan which will guarantee commercial mining at the site for the next two decades.
© 2013 Andrew Stewart