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Pilgrim’s Rest wins bid to host 2023 World Gold Panning Championships

Frieda Paton

While a South African team could not attend the annual World Gold Panning Championships this year for the first time in 20 years, the South African Gold Panning Association (SAGPA) succeeded in its bid to host the event in 2023.

This year the World Gold Panning Championships took place in Nový Knin in the Czech Republic, but teams from several member countries were unable to participate due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. The World Gold Panning Association (WGA) AGM was held on the evening of August 19 and many representatives of member countries joined the meeting on a virtual platform.  Even the WGA President, Sanjay Singh from South Africa, delivered his opening address virtually.

Sherry Goodwin, Chairman of the South African Gold Panning Association (SAGPA), presented the bid to host the World Gold Panning Championships in Pilgrim’s Rest in 2023. The bid is supported by the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation. When put to the vote after the presentation the bid received a unanimous “Yes”. The World Gold Panning Championships in 2023 will the highlight of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the official declaration of Pilgrim’s Rest as a Goldfield in 1873.

While the SAGPA officials were engaged in the virtual AGM inside the Pilgrim’s Rest Information Centre a group of members gathered outside to show their support for the bid. Many in the group had participated in World Gold Panning Championships in the past and inevitably there was plenty of reminiscing about past events during the 2-hour long wait in freezing weather.

Quite a few of the members had also planned to travel to Nový Knin to compete in this year’s championships. “It’s sad, very sad,” said Bennie Kruger, who had participated for the past five years. “I watched the opening ceremony this evening. Everyone is there, the rest of the gold panning family is there – and we are this side.”

Surprise Mdluli had participated in every World Gold Panning Championship since 2006 and has brought home many medals. “I’m a bit of a stalker, always-on social media checking what happening there and wishing everyone good luck,” Mdluli explained. “I’m a bit disappointed with the pandemic – but yes, it is what it is and we can’t change it.”

Pilgrim’s Rest had previously hosted the World Gold Panning Championships in 2005 and again in 2012.

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