Gold diggers head for Pilgrim’s Rest

2011-10-05 07:03

Mpumalanga’s historical gold-mining town, Pilgrim’s Rest, is preparing for a gold rush of sorts tomorrow when the national gold panning championships are set to start.

Provincial culture, sport and recreation spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi said 800 participants from all over the world were expected to descend on the town.

“This championship will produce panners who will qualify to take part in the world championship, which will be hosted in Pilgrim’s Rest next year October,” Nkosi said.

This championships have been held in Mpumalanga over the past 13 years under the auspices of the South African Gold Panning Association and the department.

Competitors are given a regulation gold pan and a bucket of sand in which a number of nuggets (the size of a sugar grain) are hidden. The winner will have panned out the most nuggets in the shortest time.

The number of nuggets in the buckets of sand is only known to the chief judge. Participants are grouped in categories according to their gender and age.

Even children under 10 years and novices can participate in special competitions for them. Participants are given a certificate to keep the gold nuggets as it is illegal in South Africa to own unprocessed gold.

“It’s still not a financially rewarding sport, and winners only get air tickets to fly out to the world championships if they are hosted outside the country.

Our 2010 winners had the opportunity to take part in Poland in August this year,” Nkosi said.

“We’re, however, looking for sponsors while at the same time encouraging more people, particularly blacks, to participate.”

South Africa won the right to host the world gold panning championship in 2005 in Pilgrim’s Rest, which was the first for Africa. The country will have another shot in 2012.

The event draws competitors from Britain, the Caribbean islands, United States, Canada, Mozambique, Botswana, Switzerland, New Zealand, Zambia and Namibia. 

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