Fined gold panner said he wanted to donate his haul to the ‘next Prince of Wales’
A man from Henley-on-Thames who has been prosecuted for panning for gold in Snowdonia said he was planning to gift any gold he found to the ‘next Prince of Wales’.
Brian Wright was ordered by a court to pay £3000 in the first case of its kind said gold panning was part of Wales’ heritage, and that he hoped any gold he found could be turned into a coronet for the royal collection.
Mr Wright was filmed panning for gold in the Afon Wen in Snowdonia last year by two officers from Natural Resources Wales and subsequently found guilty of three offences of digging up or removing gravel, sands or minerals and operating a metal detector on the land of the forestry authority.
Natural Resources Wales says the practice of digging up gravel on the riverbed with a trowel and looking for flecks of gold, damages salmon spawning beds in the river.
But Mr Wright says the ruling infringes on his ‘freedoms of the forest’ and will simply drive the practice underground, adding that the regulations had been misinterpreted by the environmental authority and that the forestry bylaws did not apply in the river.
He suggests that the forestry activity causes more harm to the environment, while other panners have said that the effects of panning are negligible compared to the pollution caused by agriculture.
Speaking after the case, Mr Wright, a former council rights-of-way officer said: “All our freedoms are being removed. The freedoms of the forest – they even stop local people from gathering firewood – if they catch them.
“They’re picking on me as an example, because they know all the other gold panners know me. Now they’ve got this – I’ve done them a favour because they might be able to go after other people on this basis.”
There are several areas around Wales which are likely to yield gold with panning, including Dolgellau, Dolaucothi and parts of Anglesey and Pembrokeshire.
However, according to the UK Government, gold and silver are classed as ‘Mines Royal’, meaning that in most cases they belong to the Crown.
Permission must be sought from The Crown Estate to take away gold found or discovered, by any method, permission to take it away is unlikely to be granted.
The largest piece of gold Mr Wright found is five grams, smaller than a five pence piece.
Speaking after the case, Mr Wright told the Daily Telegraph: “They know that we know that we are not the polluters. It’s the forestry which over the long term has destroyed the natural habitat.”
Dylan Williams, NRW operations manager for the North West, said: “The location where Mr Wright was caught gold panning is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation indicating its high conservation value and susceptibility to any damaging activities
“Illegal gold panning has the potential to adversely impact the river ecosystem. The process of digging up of the riverbed and bank can result in direct damage to plants or invertebrates and fish spawning grounds can be damaged. The flow of the river can also be altered.”
Mr Wright was ordered to pay a fine of £600 and costs of £2,400. NRW had sought costs of £9,550.
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