The beautiful country of France is not often known for its mining activities. But, gold mining in France dates back to Roman times.
Europe is certainly not completely devoid of gold or other precious metals. That said, the deposits here are not abundant, not as much as in other places like Canada, Australia, or South America.
Talking about gold in France, the country has enough yellow metal in its mountains and rivers to keep gold prospectors and small scale miners interested.Here is a brief account of the history of gold mining in France and places where miners can try their luck...
History of Gold Mining in France
In France, gold extraction has a surprising history. It was the Romans who first discovered gold in the south-central region of Limousin
; there is no surprise here. Interestingly, at around 100-200 BC, the Romans were in the Massif Central
not for gold, but for iron ore. They left behind most of the gold they found in France.
It was not until 1892 that gold mining was taken up as an ongoing venture. New mining areas were discovered and gold mining became a regular activity in the region. Old records show that 1908 was the most productive year with the output of gold touching 100 kg that year.
Limousin – the south-central region of France – became the center of mining activity in the country. Although some mines were abandoned, a lot more sites were opened and there was a general expansion of the gold mining activity.
It won’t be a misstatement to say that gold mining in France in the modern era was focused on the Salsigne Gold Mine.
It was once considered the most productive place for gold mining.
Gold Mining in the 20th Century
Advancement of technology helped discover new areas of gold deposits; predominately located in the southern region of France.
The discovery of more gold also attracted large mining companies with new technology and heavy equipment. High-quality gold was discovered and extracted from an open-pit mine, which is also located in the Massif Central region.
The introduction of new extraction methods dramatically changed the gold mining landscape in the country. In the early 1980s, France witnessed a sudden surge in gold mining. The news attracted the attention of many large mining companies.
In 1988, the Cogema Group – among the big players in the gold mining industry – got control over a French mining company. As a result, gold production increased in the Bourneix region.
The region was in the limelight for a brief period. Gold production, which was around 500 kg per year, increased to 2 tons as soon as the Cogema Group took control of the operations. The gold output remained high until 2002.
The company stopped its operations in the region due to mounting production costs and unstable gold prices. In the decades that have passed, the spot price of gold has increased dramatically and many are wondering if mining could once again be profitable.
Another gold mining venture that’s coming to a close is in Salsigne. In 1999, the owners of the company filed for bankruptcy and the company is under receivership. The company’s operations were slowly scaled back, and it’s believed that in the near future mining will end here.
The Allure of Gold Is Still Strong in France
France still remains a lucrative prospect for many small and large-scale gold miners. The use of clean mining methods has renewed interest in gold mining in the country.
There are many rivers, streams, and mountains in the southern region of France that have huge potential for gold mining. With the use of proper methods, gold prospectors can find small amounts of the yellow metal in several creeks and rivers all over France.
Some tour operators add gold panning
in their vacation itinerary. Gold prospecting as a fun activity is very much alive in France. There are many streams that contain placer gold, albeit in small amounts, in the southern region of the country.
The major hunting grounds for gold prospectors are rivers that make their way to France from Switzerland. Another potential gold mining area is the Loperec River.
People looking for placer gold must focus on rivers near southern Brittany, more particularly in the northern area of the Loire River.
There are quite a few rivers in Brittany that contain fine gold particles, where sluicing and panning can be a rewarding activity.
Many areas close to the mountains in the Massif Central region are yet to be explored. Research teams are looking at new areas and with the latest technology, it’s very much possible gold deposits for small and large-scale mining will be discovered soon.
Although the amount of gold available in France is minimal, the quality of the precious metal is quite high. High prices of gold and the interest in outdoor adventures is bringing new prospectors to explore Frances creeks and rivers.Next: The Basics of Gold Panning