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Gold Panning & Mining Frequently Asked Questions

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All details and information provided on this page is provided impartially, upon a basis of "in our opinion only"; and whereas we make no warranties (whether expressed or implied) in relation to its accuracy.

Gold Prospecting vs. Gold Mining

In General Terms:

Gold Prospecting is searching for gold deposits which may involve the use of gold panning to confirm that gold is present in test spots.

Gold Mining is both the extraction and removal of gold from it's location, with or without the use of gold panning.

Responsible Gold Panning & Prospecting In The UK

Be responsible in making sure you are fully aware of any land access, permitted, restricted or prohibited laws or guidelines in place and fully understand what equipment you are permitted to use. Responsible Gold Panning & Prospecting In The UK

Some views on Gold Panning in the United Kingdom

Will I get rich or make a living gold panning in the United Kingdom?
Ask yourself this; is there much, if any, commercial gold mining in the UK?

If you pay for a 10 minute taxi ride to a stream and then spend all day panning for gold, you more than likely will NOT find enough gold to pay for that taxi ride there, never mind pay for the taxi ride back home!

I've read about substantial big gold nugget finds in the UK, what's the chance on finding one?
Firstly don't believe everything you read as such stories may have simply been fabricated to gain interest by persons for some sort of personal gain!

Secondly, such finds are incredibly rare and the origin of such items may not be actually from the UK, as they may have been brought here from somewhere else.

The odds are higher with winning the Jack Pot on the National Lottery!; however some people have been very lucky or have spent considerable time in finding such.

The UK is mineral rich and known for its rare Welsh, English Cornish and Scottish Gold, so "there's gold in them thar hills" still waiting to be discovered?
Unfortunately the Romans took most of it thousands of years ago, also any seams of gold left are so far underground that it would probably cost millions of pounds to get to it, and hence would be commercially not viable to mine.
Where does the gold come from which is found by panning in rivers and streams?
This alluvial gold in most cases has worked its way in to the streams over thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago. The gold may have been eroded out of quartz veins and may have been transported by glacier movements, water flooding and wind.
Does the gold found in streams not originate in the streams themselves?
Some might well have come from veins or host rock within the streams, or today's rivers and streams may have crossed over ancient rivers or streams where gold was deposited millions of years ago.

However any such river veins would more than likely have been already exploited over the last few thousand years, and also more recently in the last few hundred years by the "old-timer miners".

Gold still must be working its way down the mountins or out of the mountins in to the streams, so there must still be loads of gold to be dug up from those river banks, benches and mountain sides?
Such gold deposits will be minimal in find, compared to the amount of overburden to first dig down through.
If we dig up enough material from the river or stream bank surroundings or from the mountain sides we should find lots of gold, like they do on the Discovery Channel Program "Gold Rush", or other televised programs like "Yukon Gold", or indeed similar to the volumes of gold found in the "Klondike"?
If you were to use a mini digger to dig up one cubic meter square of land and run it through a gold recovery trommel and sluice, at the most you may find a few specks (pin heads) of gold.

How much diesel will it have cost you to have run that material? A hundred times more in money than those few pin head speaks of gold would be worth!

Never mind how long it would take you to manually dig out and classify that one cubic meter square of dirt by hand!

So it is not worth even considering digging into the landscape for gold in the UK. Don't even be tempted!.

If I use a power dredge in the stream I will be able to process so much material at speed that I will find ounces of gold a day like found in the "bering sea" as seen on the Discovery Channel Program "Gold Divers" or "Gold Rush White Water"?
The chances are you will not even find a few grams of gold even if processing one hundred gallons per minute all day long.

The streams and rivers in the UK are very small in comparison to the large gold bearing rivers in the United States and other parts of the world so you more than likely won't even cover the cost of the fuel running the dredge.

"the UK is mineral rich and known for its rare Welsh, English Cornish and Scottish Gold"; the word "RARE" (very little) should now be getting clear!

Is all the big good gold always on or trapped in the bedrock?
larger gold flakes and the occasional small nugget may be found on the bedrock or trapped in cracks etc.

Sometimes the surface of the bedrock can be loose and moving this aside sniping and crevassing cracks can reveal additional colour!

However do avoid breaking up and kangoing out the bedrock, the streams in flood and spate do enough of that. Viciously breaking bedrock up may be considered environmentally damaging!

Does gold panning cause harm to the aquatic environment and damage wildlife and their habitats in and around streams and rivers?
There does not appear to have taken place any actual scientific experiment to answer this question.

Let's examine "Recreational Gold Panning":

Recreational Gold Panning in the UK should NOT involve the use of any powered device such as a power dredge, no matter if it has a suction hose diameter of only a few inches.

Although in other countries this may be deemed as recreational mining, usually that type of dredging takes place in much larger steams than the small burns we pan on in the UK.

Even if the land owner grants permission to use a power dredge then surely this type of action is no longer "Recreational Gold Panning"?

So for "Recreational Gold Panning" using a manual two inch Henderson type pump (manually pumping like inflating a bicycle tyre with a hand pump) action; would take so much human effort to maintain a significant length of continuous pumping to cause that level of silt movement that a power dredge does.

You would probably have a heart attack before even starting to keep up with that type of consistent and constant pumping action.

When the smallest of burns and river tributaries are in flood or in spate so much material gets pushed down stream ripping up bedrock; like using a hydraulic digger and tromel in commercial mining. It would take a lot of gold panners all working together without stopping to have that sort of impact!

Digging and manually pumping through stream gravels and running through a classifier, sluice or gold pan is done in short spates, and not for prolonged periods of time, and in fact more often than not small fish jump (ok they swim) at the chance to to feed on small stream insects and larva which are released whilst manually moving the gravel.

Unlike other outdoor activities where rubbish and debris get left behind, gold panner's take theirs away with them.

Most gold Panner's have great etiquette like:

Good metal detectorists will fill in the holes they dig, so do gold panner's back fill with the gravels they move.

Responsible fishermen (ladies) should not discard line and weights, or through unused line bait or ground bait endlessly into streams or environmentally friendly campers should not leave rubbish behind wherever or not it's bagged up.

Walkers and ramblers when tracking through wildlife environments, and treat such habitats like responsible rock climbers in not trampling down plants whilst makng their way to crags.

What about using Gravity Dredging, it only relies upon the stream current and water weight to pull material through"?
Although Gravity Dredging does not rely upon a powered motor to create the suction, such dredging can move a lot of material continuously for hours with no break, unlike using a manual pumping hand dredge.

Therefore this would also cause long periods of silt movement as would using a power dredge, and therefore would be considered the same as power dredging; and not as kind on the enviroment like "Recreational Gold Panning" ment as a hobby activity rather than a commercial mining engagement!

Does moving the gravel cause problems for fish spawning particular for salmon and trout?
Gold panners make it their business to be aware of when and where they should not pan during these spawning periods.

Such window for spawning usually takes place between the beginning of October and the end of May.

Important fish spawning and rheophilic invertebrate species rely upon natural channel-features habitat like riffle-pool sequences created in the stream gravels.

These are crucial for both salmon and trout to spawn and an important factor is the size of the gravels and their coarseness to which the fish can excavate and move. Sizes of such gravels that can be moved depends upon the size and type of the fish.

Unfortunately when these gravels get compressed down over long periods of time in the stream beds prevents the fish from being able to move them and spawn in them.

So when gold panner's dig down and move these compressed gravels actually increases the possibility of the stream naturally re-creating such channel features, with loosened and separated gravels which have been released.

After finishing with the working area gold panner's generally back fill the holes with the larger and heavier rocks first, then shovel back the smaller stones over them filling in between the gaps.

Small amounts of tailings left by panning out or from sluices usually comprise of the small gravels which can either be pumped back over the area or simply left for the stream to be now able to recreate such channel features with the freshly loosened and separated gravels which have been released.

Quite often around sluices (usually less than one meter in length) we will build small dams to help the flow of low pressure water through the sluice. However, these are very small and actually help to re-oxygenate the water, where current is slight sped up. After the days finished, the rocks get re-distributed.

Working areas in the streams where there is little or almost no flow the water can became stagnant. Working in such areas can help move water about whilst we will build small dams to help the flow of low pressure water through sluices (sluices are usually kept to less than one meter in length and only about 30cm wide!) . However these dams are very small and actually help to re-oxygenate the water, where current is slight sped up rushing over the dam rocks. After the days finished the rocks can be re-distributed back.


In degraded rivers gravel additions are manually implemented to provide suitable spawning locations for salmonids and provide spawning-bed enhancement to improve embryo survival.

This has been carried out in large rivers where comercial daming has taken place, for example hydroelectric dams, and the flow of the river has been reduced to almost nothing.

How much pollution is created by gold panning?
Extremely little if any at all. Ok don't urinate in the stream it will tip the balance on all that sheep and other cattle urine and excrement washed into the streams!

In comparison to how much pollution is carried into streams from crop pesticides, industrial discharges, chemicals, oils and washed in pollutants from roads and much more; If any small amounts of natural lead or mercury are displaced by shifting through river gavels, then this would be absolutely minimal, and at no extra amount that could get released by natural stream flood and spate.

Can large quantities of silt and minerals be uncovered and such sudden discharges be harmful in streams from gold panning?
It's extremely un likely that amounts of sudden silt mineral discharges from manual moving gravels could amount to the volume that would be considered harmful.

Using continuous small manual dredging techniques for long periods of time may discharge some level of mineral displacement, however this would remain minimal. Compare to that of a few days of heavy rain when a stream starts to flood!

How many people in the UK do gold panning?
Less than two thousand at a guess, however it has become more popular.
Does gold panning benefit the communities?
Yes, ask those small businesses such as B&B's, local shops, Pubs, Hotels, Camping & Caravan sites, petrol stations and much more, who receive custom as a result.
Does this activity attract additional tourism from abroad with money spent into the UK economy?
Yes, however in very small quantity.
So if people usually spend more money than the value of the gold flakes they find (if they find any at all), and it's extremely back breaking and hard work with little or no return, then what's the point in doing it?
To get away from the general rate race and spend some peace full and hopefully tranquil time in the natural wildlife environment hopefully finding a little colour in the pan!