Gold & Other Minerals

Gold occurs in the river gravels around Wanlockhead and Leadhills. The main period of working was during the sixteenth century when the Scottish crown invited a number of foreign miners to search for gold in the Lowther Hills. James V (1512-42) is said to have added local gold to the Honours of Scotland, using 1.2 kg (41 ounces) in his own crown and 1.0 kg (35 ounces) in the Queen's crown.


Since 1620 there has been very little gold mining although a number of local lead miners supplemented their wages by searching for gold. Gold can still be found at Wanlockhead and many part time prospectors hope to strike it rich. 


The lead ores of south-west Scotland often contain silver. Significant amounts of the precious metal have been obtained as a by-product of lead mining. 

Silver is recovered from lead in a special refining process known as cupellation. The smelt mills at Wanlockhead and Woodhead both had silver refining hearths. Each ton of lead at Woodhead contained 510 g (18 ounces) of silver. 


Copper ores have been worked near Girvan and at a number of places along the Galloway coast. Most of the mines were small affairs and nearly all the copper was taken by sea to Wales for smelting. The main period of working was in the 1820s although the Enrick mine at Gatehouse-of-Fleet reopened in 1912. 


Zinc is often found with lead and many of the region's lead mines were reworked for this mineral during and just after the First World War. Between 1916 and 1922 the firm of Ore Supply Limited reopened the Newton Stewart mines and built a special processing plant at Wood of Cree mine to recover zinc. 


Baryte is found at Auchencairn in Galloway and at Glen Sannox on Arran. Used as a filler in paint and as a heavy mud in the drilling industry, baryte has only been mined on a commercial scale since the mid twentieth century.

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