There could be a gold rush in the Scottish Highlands, with a National Nature Reserve at its centre.
Scotgold, the company behind the move, sounds the epitome of a Scottish setup, with a former mine manager from Comrie as its chief executive and a base in Perth. That’s Perth, Western Australia, however.
The Ben Lui National Nature Reserve at Cononish
Scotgold Resources raised A$4.9m (£2.2m) in November last year, with the intention of prospecting for gold at the disused Cononish mine, near Tyndrum, in the shadow of Ben Lui. The company is talking up its prospects and says there is potential in the mine with the rise in the value of gold.
Scotgold non-executive chairman Shane Sadleir said that his company would now try to establish a gold mine at Cononish in Strath Fillan to become the only significant gold mining company in Scotland.
The area around Cononish, close to the West Highland Way, is a National Nature Reserve. The mine itself goes 1.2km into Ben Lui’s neighbouring mountain Ben Chuirn and has lain unused for many years. Initial exploration in the 1980s determined that it was not economic to mine the gold, the deposits of which are found in small quantities throughout the ancient Dalradian rock.
A 2006 report for the planning committee of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, in which Cononish lies, said of the mine: “The current visual condition of the site, due to the open mountainous of the surrounding countryside, presents a jarring and discordant feature.”
The mine was formerly owned by Fynegold, but no production ever took place.
Mr Sadleir said: “As a priority, Scotgold plans to undertake an assessment of the known gold and silver mineralisation at Cononish.
“Much of the hard work has already been done for us, with the previous owners carrying out exploration on the project over some 15 years, including diamond drilling and the construction of a 1.2km tunnel along the vein, culminating with planning approval for a small mining operation of 25,000 ounces of gold per annum in 1996. A downturn in the gold price shortly after saw the project placed in care and maintenance for the next 10 years.”
However, Fynegold’s stewardship of the site caused controversy, with the Crown Commissioners giving notice of the winding up of permission to mine gold and silver. The Commissioners have to approve all precious-metal mining in Britain.
In August 2006, planning officers for the national park also recommended refusal of a five-year extension to the permission on the grounds that Fynegold could not guarantee that production would start, nor that restoration of the site would take place after work finished.
The company’s chief executive Chris Sangster, a graduate of the Royal School of Mines in London lives at Comrie in and worked as general manager at Cononish for four years up to 1999.
Tyndrum residents have welcomed the plan, which could create up to 60 jobs.