Indigenous gold and how recent research contributed to our understanding of this landscape


Wednesday, 11 October, 2023    


Prof. Robert Chapman, Senior Lecturer, Leeds University

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Britain and Ireland are geologically complex, and we are fortunate to have relatively easy access to rocks that reveal a rich tectonic history. That diversity of past geological processes is reflected in the wide range of ore deposits; many of which were once economically important. Whilst mining for lead, copper, iron and latterly zinc, has been of strategic importance, the winning of gold has been both more geographically and temporally sporadic. Nevertheless, the history of gold mining in these Islands goes back over 4,000 years, from the Early Bronze Age to the modern day mines of Clogau and Gwynfynydd in North Wales, Cavanacaw in Northern Ireland and Cononish, Scotland. Historic exploitation focussed on alluvial gold, again both in Scotland and Ireland, but, in addition, there are a large number of gold localities where smaller amounts of gold can recovered from river gravels. Whilst these seemingly have no economic potential, the development of methodologies to characterise gold composition has utilised such occurrences to enhance our understanding of regional gold mineralization. This talk will introduce the various different geological environments in which gold forms, and correlate these with the main gold bearing areas of Britain and Ireland that have been exploited at one time or another. There will be a short foray into the research work carried out on indigenous gold at Leeds University, and finally some practical advice on how to go about finding some for yourself.