Byline: DARREN DEVINE
THE biggest gold mining area in Wales could be reopened within two years according to a firm handed an exclusive deal to explore the region for the precious metal.
Ed McDermott, managing director of Gold Mines of Wales, says he hopes the Dolgellau gold belt, in Gwynedd, could again be at the centre of a mining industry.
Welsh gold is one of the world's most sought after precious metals and has been used for the rings in many royal weddings, including last year's marriage of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Crown Estate has given Gold Mines of Wales an exclusive option agreement that allows it to search up to 120 square kilometres of the Dolgellau gold belt, much of which is in the Snowdonia National Park.
Mr McDermott is hoping the agreement is a precursor to a full-scale extraction licence that would allow the company to mine.
He said: "Time frame wise it's very difficult, but I would say 18 to 24 months is my hope [for mining to start].
"Obviously the sooner the better, but everything must be done 100% by the book and we're dealing with a number of authorities within that area, including the Snowdonia National Park and the Environment Agency."
But Mr McDermott stressed that, given rises in the world price of gold since the area's last mine, Gwynfynydd, closed in 1999, the industry has the potential to be revived.
When Gwynfynydd closed gold was trading on world markets at $300 an ounce, now it's trading at around $1,700.
And, because of its scarcity, Welsh gold is sold at a premium above and beyond the price on world markets.
Mr McDermott, 30, said: "That area of the country has a very rich mineral resource.
"Mining-wise the old boys knew what they were doing, but they had a very different set of criteria at that time with the gold price as it was. …