The idea of panning for gold and finding that life changing nugget has surely appealed to everyone at one time or another. But the people with probably the biggest chance of achieving that dream have just got together in the Czech Republic for the World Gold Panning Championships near the town of Zlaté Hory on the Polish border.
We talked to one competitor — the chairwoman of the Czech Gold Panning Association — Veronika Štědrá about the just completed championships and about gold panning fever. First of all, how successful were the Czech championships.
“It was a very well attended championship. There were more than 500 individual competitors plus different categories of teams. We were very happy to have such a strong representation from around the world. And the competition itself was really excellent. We did not have any technical problems and a wonderful arena was built for the championship.”
Where did the competitors actually come from? Was it an international entry?
“There were representatives of 21 nations here. These included Canada, South Africa, Japan and, of course, the strongest countries from Europe which are traditionally Finland, Italy, France, Germany and Austria.”
“Yes, the Finns are extremely strong in gold panning because washing of alluvial gold is a tradition particularly in Lapland and the area beyond the Arctic Circle. So they are quite naturally well prepared and train for the competitions on their claims there.”
You held the last world championships more than 10 years ago, have there been a lot of changes since then?
“I would not say it moved that substantially. I would say though that young people are more distracted by other activities around us more and more. So there is a small gap between the older generation and the younger one. But on the other hand, in Finland and other European countries it is getting very popular with retired people because it is a good way of travelling and enjoying their time.”
When people do this on their own, not in championships, do they actually find a lot of gold? Can you make money out of this?
“Not in the Czech Republic because it is a restricted activity here and the resources are severely restricted by the activities of our forefathers. But in more virgin countries such as isolated parts of Finland, or Canada or Australia or other countries it is still a good way of making a living. But here it is just for fun.”
One milestone for the Czech Gold Panning Association and an important breakthrough has been getting its traditional conical pan, or batea pan, adopted as an official category in the next world championships.