Switzerland is a country whose name is synonymous with gold, but not because of the amount of gold that is found naturally occurring in the country. Almost 77% of the words gold is processed and refined as it moves through the country; last year that percentage amounted to 132 billion USD in gold that transited through Switzerland.
Processing gold is not the only way gold is handled in this European country though, and it does have a past and possibly future gold production history.
Panning for Gold
There are no active mines here at the moment but there is a small amount of gold being prospected in the rivers and streams around Switzerland. People have had good luck prospecting in the Rhine River; yes, the same Rhine that runs through France originates in the Swiss Alps.
The gold is being found near a town called Disentis (interestingly enough close to where they think a large underground gold reserve is located). People have also had some success panning for gold near the town of Zwischbergental in central Switzerland in the beautiful Valaisian Valley; it is actually a site where 33 Kilograms of gold were found in a mine a little over 100 years ago. That mine is no longer operating, but there is little doubt that gold is still in the area. The town even boasts about its gold museum which is located near the site of the old gold mine.
Also Read: Finally! The Ultimate Gold Panning Guide!
What Could Be (But Probably Won’t)
Just because there are no active gold mines in Switzerland does not mean the gold is not there; as a matter of fact, many experts believe that Switzerland may actually have the largest gold reserves in all of Europe.
So why are there no active mines there? Well the answer to that is because the people in the region where the gold is located are more than willing to give up the jobs and riches the gold may bring in order to preserve their valley the way it is.
A mine would bring an estimated 4 million dollars a year in revenue to the small local communities over the next ten years, but despite Europe being in the worst depression since WWII, the townsfolk still say no to the mines.
The gold in question is located in an area called the Medel Valley in the snow covered Alps about 2 hours southeast of Lucerne and close to the town of Disentis. How much gold do experts think is in the mountains? Reserves are estimated to be in the area of around 1.2 billion dollars. That is the reason why some Canadian based mining companies were actively looking to set up shop there.
Despite the fact that the towns are dying because all the young people need to go elsewhere to find jobs; the 450 or so locals voted to maintain the status quo and keep the miners away for the time being.
So as of now Switzerland is full of promise as a gold producing country but lacks even one working mine. It will be interesting to see what happens in the near future if the town’s people are allowed to vote again and the local economy keeps getting worse.
It continues to be a country that is labeled as having great “potential” as far as finding gold is concerned, but the difficult terrain and limited road system in the hard to reach regions where experts think the gold is may not make it cost effective to mine there. Combine that fact with the reluctance of the Swiss townsfolk to approve any type of mining activity in their beautiful country and Switzerland may never get past the “potential” phase when it comes to active gold production in the alpine nation.
Switzerland is certainly not the only country in Europe that has prohibited or restricted mining activity in their country. It follows other gold rich countries like Romania and Hungary in preventing exploration and mines.
Small-scale gold miners can still find gold in many of the streams and rivers that flow through the rugged mountains of Switzerland.
Clickable Europe Gold Map