Last September I attended a voluntary interview with Natural Resources Wales and the North Wales wildlife police officer, at which they interviewed me with a view to a potential prosecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for panning for gold in the Afon Wen. I explained that the legislation requires them to prove that I have recklessly harmed the protected species for which the SSSI and Special Area of Conservation was notified, and that there are no such protected species on the lower Afon Wen. They reluctantly accepted my argument and have left me alone since then. However, last year a number of gangs have been operating on the nearby Afon Mawddach, mainly causing problems by hogging the leisure car parks, and leaving large amounts of trash. They all fell out over control of the best spots, but they didn't find many grams.
When I returned to the Afon Wen in March, it was mainly quiet, apart from some friendly local lads who were digging quite a large excavation. Again, they apparently didn't find many grams.
I am not sure whether the authorities have entirely given up on their anti-pannning policy, and they may be waiting for the spring rush to clamp down again, possibly with threats to enforce the forestry byelaws. I will keep campaigning despite these misguided official efforts to enforce what I believe to be unlawful SSSI and SAC notifications. In addition I will be assisting gold prospecting companies who wish to reopen gold mines in the area, based on the legislation which actually supports job creation.
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