Loch Lomond mine could begin producing Scottish gold within months

Australian company's ore processing project attracts interest from jewellers eager to get their hands on the first batch

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The Independent Online

Among Scots and tourists alike, the bonny banks of Loch Lomond have long been renowned as a relaxing place to enjoy some of the country's most beautiful scenery. But the area could soon become associated with an altogether more tangible commodity: Scottish gold.

An Australian company which has spent most of the last decade developing a gold mine in the dramatic surroundings of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park has finally announced plans for an ore processing trial. If approved, the mine could be producing Scottish gold within months.

Scotgold Resources said it was ready to begin processing 2,400 tonnes of ore which have already been extracted at its Cononish mine at Tyndrum. The project is already attracting interest from high-end jewellers eager to get their hands on the first batch of purely Scottish gold, which is expected to be particularly sought-after by couples who want unique wedding rings.

Although a gold mine at Tyndrum has been discussed as far back as the 1980s, Scotgold only began working on the idea of a commercially viable project eight years ago. Since then it has been busy conducting lengthy feasibility studies and securing the relevant planning permissions, but Richard Gray, the company's chief executive, told The Independent that producing gold was now tantalisingly close.

“It's always been there on paper, but it's not managed to produce anything so far,” he said. “The significance of what we're doing now is that we'll actually have some trial equipment up on site taking some of the ore, the gold-bearing material, and we're going to produce some gold. It's a huge step because we're at last now doing something tangible.”

The company does not know exactly how much gold it will be able to get out of the ground during the six month trial, but is hoping to secure around 500 ounces with the aim of selling a “significant quantity” to Scottish jewellers. If and when the mine enters full production, its aim is to produce 23,000 ounces of gold a year.

Mr Gray said the first Scottish gold could be produced as early as May and would be converted into jewellery as soon as possible. The firm has already sounded out several high-end jewellers who are willing to pay a premium for the gold, in anticipation of high demand due to the rarity of the product. 

“There's a huge market in Scotland for people coming up to get married here in Scottish castles,” he added. “A bit like the way De Beers markets diamonds, once people know that Scottish gold is available and you can get a wedding ring made from pure Scottish gold, I think the market will grow for it.”

The development of the mine has not been without controversy, with local campaigners voicing concerns that the infrastructure and waste created by the operation could damage the national park. Before the ore processing trial can begin, planning permission will have to be granted.

A spokesperson for the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority said: “Any planning application we receive is assessed against a bespoke set of policies to ensure that any new development does not result in unacceptable environmental impacts. Where possible we look for development to deliver environmental gains, not least because of our National Park status.”