BBC – Gold Town Series 1 (2021)

BBC – Gold Town Series 1 (2021)
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Category: Tutorial

Buried deep in the spectacular landscape of Scotland’s Highlands, there is gold. This series follows the fortunes of a band of miners, many of whom are new to the job, as they attempt to extract it. If the mining company can make it work, this will be Scotland’s very first commercial gold mine. Filmed in the Scottish Highlands over a year and a half, the series follows the constant challenges at the mine and the life in the local community, a busy hub that up until now has relied mainly on tourism.

Chapter 1:
Eighty-three-year-old farmer John Burton and his wife Deirdre have known about the gold on their land for almost 40 years. A quartz vein, hidden inside Beinn Chuirn, contains gold estimated to be worth ?200 million. However, several companies have already tried and failed to extract it, and establishing a new mine is not easy.

It’s August 2019, and John’s son Davy is one of the mine supervisors leading a team of local lads new to mining. Training here means the miners could get jobs abroad that pay almost three times the average for the area. However, working 12-hour shifts underground can be challenging; it is noisy, dusty and damp, with a potential for unexpected rock fall and hazardous fumes.

Five miles down the road, the local village of Tyndrum is buzzing with visitors. Fiona from busy service station The Green Welly Stop has lost a couple of workers to the mine. Sarah at The Real Food Cafe was against the mine initially but is now keen to ensure it brings genuine benefit to the community. A shortage of housing is a huge problem here, but mine employees increasing the demand may encourage companies to build.

The mining company won’t make a penny until the first molten gold is poured, and that date keeps slipping. Already ?24 million in the red, CEO Richard Gray has had to ask investors for more money. He calls on all managers to redouble their efforts to keep the funders on side and produce gold by February 2020 – still six months away.

To extract the tiny gold particles from the ore vein, the company need to build a giant processing plant just below the entrance to the mine. But as farmer John’s land lies within Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, planning consent comes with strict stipulations. The start of the build is delayed by months, and when they finally get going, they immediately hit a problem – much more peat than they have been given permission to unearth, and work can’t properly move on until they find somewhere to store it.

Australian project manager Jason is now faced with building a giant processing plant on an exposed Scottish hillside in the depths of winter, with any further delay potentially leading the whole mining project to run out of money.

Chapter 2:
It’s November 2019, and the delays in building the processing plant for the gold mine continue. Shifting 185,000 tons of mountain terrain to level the ground should have taken six weeks, but it has now been three months and they are nowhere near finished.

Until they have the processing plant up and running, the mine can’t extract the fine particles of gold from the quartz vein and start making money. Project manager Jason Saint is hitting problem after problem, with unrelenting rain making the ground too dangerous for the contractors to operate their heavy machinery, and excess peat is continually being discovered. Jason has one final area he thinks Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park planning team may approve for peat storage, and if they don’t agree, he is at a loss as what to do.

Four miles west in the village of Tyndrum, the quieter winter months provide time for staff training at The Green Welly Stop. Although during winter they don’t turn a profit, Fiona is keen to keep open to provide a service for those who need fuel and supplies.

Mine CEO, Richard Gray, has travelled to Edinburgh with Nat le Roux, one of the mine’s main investors for an urgent meeting. Two jewellery companies signed up to an exclusive deal to create and sell jewellery made from gold produced in the mine’s first year and they expected to see their first batch three months ago.

Meanwhile, there is an accident back at the mine as two men are injured by a truckload of heavy matting. The matting has crushed the delivery driver, who had to be airlifted to hospital. The other casualty is farmer John’s son Davy, who has suffered a broken jaw and badly bruised ribs.

By February 2020, the earthworks for the processing plant are no further on. They were supposed to be pouring gold by now, but are instead facing many more months of delay. With finances at a critical point, Richard has decided they will stand down the contractors and ask the miners to help with the groundworks. However, just as they get started, there is another problem for Jason – the National Park planners have told them to stop work on the new water management system!

Chapter 3:
It’s February 2020, and the mine is six months behind schedule, with no sign of the processing plant. Despite the efforts of the redeployed miners, winter conditions mean they haven’t been able to finish creating a flat platform on the hillside for building to start.

As February comes to a close the weather starts to improve and there is a chance to claw back lost time. However, the pandemic then hits the UK and on 23 March the country goes into lockdown, meaning the site has to be closed.

Four miles away in the usually bustling village of Tyndrum, everything is quiet, and owner of The Real Food Cafe, Sarah, is concerned about the large elderly population in the area, which includes her mum. Green Welly Stop owner Fiona continues to provide essential fuel supplies, but she has had to put 60 staff on furlough.

Up at the mine, the small team working on care and maintenance have been able to finally finish preparing the base for the processing plant. There is also the positive news that the price of gold has reached an all-time high and the company is now in a good financial position, despite all the delays.

At the start of July, the Scottish government’s five-mile travel restriction is lifted and local businesses are able to open. However, Andy at the Tyndrum Inn is worried they won’t make it through the winter, while at The Real Food Caf?, Sarah explains they are approaching a half a million-pound loss due to missing out on four of their most profitable months.

By November 30th 2020, things are at crunch point. This is the day that investors have been told the mining company will pour the first molten gold. Processing plant manager Nigel is taking on the challenge of turning the crushed quartz vein into gold. Despite not being the quantity they had hoped for, it is both a success and a major step in showing they can be a working goldmine.

Further Information


Related Documentaries

The Quest for Gold
Cursed for Gold
Alaska Gold
The Curse of Gold
City of Gold
The Klondike Gold Rush (PBS)
The Secret World of Gold
The Lost Gold of the Highlands (BBC)
Dawson City: Frozen Time

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