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Gold rush in prospect as plan unveiled for Highland mine

THE 19th-century discovery of gold in the hills around Tyndrum transformed the Highland town.

The influx of prospectors hoping to get rich quick is credited with sparking the construction of the town as it stands today.

But plunging prices for the precious metal sent the miners and panners packing after just a year.

Almost two centuries later, the community - perhaps best known as the junction where travellers must choose between Oban and Glen Coe - now looks set to experience a new gold rush.

A firm yesterday unveiled plans to mine gold commercially nearby.

Scotgold Resources believes there is as much as 70 million worth of gold and silver in the area at Cononish mine.

The firm has bought the gold and silver assets around Tyndrum for 800,000 from the Swiss-based Oak Consortium.

Scotgold believes there is about 191,000 ounces of gold and 998,000 ounces of silver to be taken.

It is seeking permission from the Crown Estate - which owns the rights to the gold - to lease the site.

The firm hopes to bring the Cononish gold project into production within two years.

Backers last night revealed that Scottish jewellery could also be manufactured near the site.

Chris Sangster, chief executive of Scotgold, said: "We'll directly employ up to 60 people at the Cononish mine, which will have a life span of about eight years.

"We'd also look into opportunities of selling the gold to a suitable partner which could manufacture jewellery in the local area.

"I think Scottish gold jewellery would be in demand as it's very scarce - they're aren't any other mines in Scotland and not enough can be panned. We believe it would be at a premium as wealthy Scots living overseas would love a piece."

Experts said Scottish gold was likely to be popular.

Tracey Neilson, a sales consultant with Goodwins Antiques in Edinburgh, said: "I think Scottish gold would be in demand. "You'd be amazed at how many tourists we get asking for it. "They've often heard of Welsh gold and don't realise how hard it is to get a Scottish equivalent. Many visitors just want a piece to take back home.

"The jewellery wouldn't even have to be manufactured in Scotland, it would just be important for it to be made from gold mined in the country.

"For wedding rings it could also be popular as people often like to have some kind of Celtic link."

Although the Cononish gold deposit was discovered in 1984, it has never been commercially mined.

In 1995, the deposit was bought by a Canadian firm which was given permission to mine but production was never started.

The Oak Consortium did not mine the area because of the relatively low gold price at the time.

The plan was also welcomed as a potential boost to tourism.

Jim Mailer, of Strathfillan House, a guest house in Tyndrum, said: "The old mine is quite far off the road so I'm not sure how much of a tourist attraction it would be in its own right - unless they were giving out bags of gold.

"But if there was a drop-in visitor centre, or if tours were offered, it could bring in people."

According to local legend, over a period of years one man managed to pan sufficient gold near Tyndrum to buy his wife-to-be a wedding ring.

PRECIOUS FIND

THE first written record of gold being found in Scotland dates from 1239.

The monks of Newbattle Abbey mined gold in the Lowther Hills and Leadhills near Dalkeith, Midlothian - until they saw a better market for lead and turned to digging that up instead.

But gold continued to be worked in the Lowthers, so much so that by the Middle Ages the area was known as "God's treasure house". As late as 1604, Sir Bevis Bulmer and his team of miners extracted gold with a value of 100,000 - the equivalent of several million pounds at today's prices.

Scotland also experienced a mini-version of the Klondyke gold rush in the 1860s, when the precious metal was discovered in the River Helmsdale in Sutherland.

 
 
 

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