Man fined over £3,000 for illegal gold panning

A man has been found guilty of illegal gold panning at Coed y Brenin Forest and ordered to pay fines and costs totalling just over £3,000.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) officers caught Brian Wright illegally gold panning at Coed Y Brenin Forest on four separate occasions between 14 July – 19 August 2021. Gold panning is not permitted on NRW land due to the potential damage that could be caused to the river ecosystem by digging up gravel and the removal of minerals.

For the first incident, NRW officers advised Mr Wright that gold panning was not permitted on NRW land and he should stop. If he was to persist, NRW would escalate enforcement proceedings.

Mr Wright failed to heed warning, as he was caught a further three times before he was invited by North Wales Police to attend a formal interview for his crimes.

On Thursday 26 May, Mr Wright was convicted and sentenced at Llandudno Magistrates Court for all three charges faced.

Dylan Williams, NRW Operations Manager North West, said:

“The location where Mr Wright was caught gold panning is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation indicating its high conservation value and susceptibility to any damaging activities.
“Illegal gold panning has the potential to adversely impact the river ecosystem. The process of digging up of the riverbed and bank can result in direct damage to plants or invertebrates and fish spawning grounds can be damaged. The flow of the river can also be altered.
“I would like to thank the NRW Officers for their persistence on this case and North Wales Police for their assistance in the prosecution of Mr Wright. We hope the fine handed out will make people think twice before illegally panning gold at Coed y Brenin Forest, and across other special sites in the future.”