Back to Normal for the 2022 Gold Panning Championships

gold panning championships

The 2022 National Gold Panning Championships, held from October 5-8, were a welcome return to normal after the COVID restrictions of the past two national events. Once again the street parade, opening ceremony, and pub crawl could be part of the fun. The championships also saw a greater number of participants than in the past decade and spectators were allowed at the venue to cheer them on.

Furthermore, this year was the 25th anniversary of the national championships which are held annually in the historical village of Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga Province. The yearly event is organised by the SA Gold Panning Association in partnership with the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation. In August next year they will be hosting the 2023 World Gold Panning Championships.

Street Parade and Opening Ceremony

The colourful street parade moved from Down Town, Pilgrim’s Rest, to the gold panning site. According to the usual tradition the parade was by “Wheelbarrow Patterson” who discovered the first gold in the area. The VIP’s and the SAGPA members who had earned medals in overseas championships during the year followed behind him. Onlookers were then treated to floats, bands, and many others on foot handing out balloons and sweets. 

Opening street parade at SA National Gold Panning Championships.

Thandi Shongwe, MEC of the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation officially opened the championships. She emphasized that this year’s event was setting the tone for the world championships next year.

“As the Mpumalanga government we are very excited. We note that it is just less than a year to the World Cup but we are sure that Mpumalanga will be ready,” she said. Shongwe also called on everyone to ensure that the overseas guests are given a warm and safe welcome.

As part of the opening ceremony, the World Gold Panning Association (WGA) flag was presented to Shongwe. The flag had been received by SAGPA, as hosts of the next world championships, at the close of the 2022 World Gold Panning Championships in Zlotoryje, Poland. There was also the cutting of the cake in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the SA National Gold Panning Championships.

Watch the street parade and opening ceremony here

Large number of competitors

The highlight of the championships, according to Sherry Goodwin, Chairman of SAGPA, was large number of participants. “Also, it was wonderful to be able to have a full, proper competition again, including the street parade, opening ceremony and spectators for the first time in three years,” she explained. 

There were 859 event participants, representing over 300 persons. This was highest participation in a national championship since 2011 which, interestingly, was also one year before SAGPA hosted a world gold panning championship. Many of the competitors were from the local community, but others joined in from across Mpumalanga and also from Gauteng and Limpopo.

5-person team gold panning competition
A full field for the 5-person team contest

A new official children’s category, for under 12’s who are unassisted by an adult, was introduced at this year’s championships. There was also a new unofficial Master’s category for person’s over 70.

Competitors in a children's gold panning championships
Competitors awaiting the start in the new official children’s championship

Successful 2022 Gold Panning Championships

The gold panning started with the first heats on Thursday October 6, and continued to the finals on October 8. Contests were held every half-an-hour from early in the morning to around 16:00 in the afternoons. The new digital systems ensured smooth running of the event despite the large number of competitors and contests. Results were released quickly and participants could see them on their smartphones.

The finals are the highlight of the event, treating the crowd to fast-and-furious gold panning by the top competitors. The proficient men’s winner, Diaan van Heerden, found all 8 nuggets in a time of 1m 02.36s. In the proficient ladies category the winner, Goodness Mashego, completed in a time 1m 13.44s. Veteran Andrew Mason won in a time of 1m 15.72s. The winning junior, Nthlari Mokoena, found the 10 nuggets in a time of 1m19.26s.

Mpumalanga team, winners of the provincial team event at the 2022 SA National Gold Panning Championships
The Mpumalanga team, winners of the provincial team event

Follow the link to the gallery for more pictures of the 2022 SA National Gold Panning Championships.

Official categories at the SA National Gold Panning Championships are held according to the rules of the World Gold Panning Association. Follow this link to find out how a gold panning competition works.

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