2023 Interschools Gold Panning Competition

Waiting for start signal during the Interschool Gold Panning Competition

An interschools gold panning competition was held by the South African Gold Panning Association (SAGPA) on March 10, an event arranged to introduce the sport of gold panning to the wider community.

The participants and their teachers enjoyed a fun-filled day facilitated by volunteer members of SAGPA. The winners will be competing in the World Gold Panning Championships in Pilgrim’s Rest later this year.  

Large Number of Participants

Fifteen schools in the region, including one in Limpopo, were invited to send ten Grade 7 learners to participate in the competition. This age group would qualify to compete in the junior category at official gold panning championships.

Outreaches were held at each school in the run-up to the event. Learners could try their hand at gold panning and from there the participants in the interschools competition  were selected.  

On the day were just fewer than 140 participants. Unfortunately one of the schools was unable to attend due to a transport problem, and some schools sent fewer than 10 learners.

A Full Day of Gold Panning

On arrival at the gold panning site in Pilgrim’s Rest each participant and the teachers were presented with a WOZA 2023 T-shirt and enjoyed a boxed breakfast before the competition got under way. Most of the learners had at least two opportunities to pan as there were an elimination round, followed by quarterfinal, semi-final and final rounds.

Waiting for the starting bel during the 2023 Interschools Gold Panning Championships in Pilgrim's Rest, South Africa
Participants Waiting for the Starting Bell While the Crowd of Spectators is Looking On

As the learners were all beginners, the times were much slower than what is normally seen at gold panning championships. However, they definitely speeded up as the day went on.  

The teachers and parents who accompanied the learners were also given the opportunity to try their hand at gold panning. Thirteen of them accepted the challenge and with lively support from their pupils this turned out to be a fun event with much laughter.  

The Interschools Gold Panning Competition Winners

The winners of the 2023 Interschools Gold Panning Championships were Loyiso Kock (Graskop Primary School) in first place. Ripfimelo Mathebula (Pilgrim’s Rest Primary School) took second place, and in third place was Owethu Mahlalela (Mhola Primary School in Barberton).

Winners of the 2023 Interschools Gold Panning Competition in Pilgrim's Rest, Mpumalanga.
Interschools Gold Panning Competition Medallists: Gold – Loyiso Kock (Centre), Silver – Ripfimelo Mathebula (Left), and Bronze – Owethu Mahlalela (Right)

While there was no provision for a winning school, this honour would have gone to Mhola Primary School in Barberton.  All ten of their pupils went through to the finals and four of them were placed in the top 10. The reason for this was surely the practice session held with the team by enthusiastic SAGPA gold panners in Barberton. A clear indication of the value of practice and that success in gold panning is not just luck.

Next Up – the World Gold Panning Championships

After a long day the learners boarded their transport home, tired but smiling. However, some of them will be returning.

The winners will be sponsored to participate in the junior category during the World Gold Panning Championships to be held from 6-12 August 2023 in Pilgrim’s Rest. Hopefully they, and other participants, will become enthusiastic gold panners so that the event will have contributed to building the sport for the future.

More images of the 2023 Interschools Gold Panning Competition. Click on the images to enlarge.


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