Dr Gerry Mooney is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University in Scotland.
Adviser on the Open University/BBC Scotland documentary, Gold Town, Dr Gerry Mooney explores what Scotland’s first commercial gold mine means to the village of Tyndrum. The gold mine has already enhanced Tyndrum’s place in the world, he highlights how it might support its social sustainability.
Perhaps of all the places in Scotland where one could identify and observe global connections, Tyndrum would not feature on anyone’s list.
It is a village, a small village, in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands, and as such lacks the global presence or footprint, say, of the large urban communities of Scotland, Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow, or of major towns such as Inverness, Kirkcaldy or Paisley.
Each and every settlement has its own unique sense of place and Tyndrum is no exception. In part this is a product of its historic links to other places – in Scotland, elsewhere across the British Isles, Europe and increasingly beyond.
Tyndrum has long been on the Scottish tourist map, where its location is an ideal stopping point for those visitors from across the world who have been walking the West Highland Way fulfilling their travel bucket list.
Sitting aside the main A82 route from Central Scotland to the Western Highlands, and a key railway line from Glasgow to the towns of Oban and Fort William on the West Coast, Tyndrum arguably has the connections and infrastructure that much larger places across Scotland would envy.
It is the coming together of its historic and far-reaching connections, as well as its geographical location, that make Tyndrum the place that it is, and the place it is now slowly becoming.
These wider connections are continually being made, unmade and remade and it is primarily through the mining operations that are taking place at the nearby Cononish gold and silver mine that many of the new links are being forged.
Tyndrum is now connected with the mining of valuable resources, such as gold, in other parts of the world.
The village and the surrounding area have become home to miners and other workers who have experience in the mineral mining industry in South Africa and Australia.
Other workers have come from elsewhere in Africa, from various European countries as well as from other parts of the UK.
That Tyndrum is literally sitting on top of a gold mine is manna from heaven for the local tourist industry which has been the lifeblood of the village and surrounding district for some considerable time.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit tourism hard – as elsewhere across Scotland. There are hopes that the mine and a visitor centre will play a major role in the longer-term economic recovery of the area, attracting those with a particular interest in mining as well as new generations of tourists fascinated with the story of discovering gold.
We can also talk about Tyndrum having global links in some other ways, ways that may at first appear less tangible, but which are in many ways even more important.
Environmental sustainability is both a local and a global concern: preventing pollution has become a key goal across the world.
The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park authority have worked to ensure that the mining operations at Cononish are fully in line with best practice when it comes to protecting the environment and the wildlife which inhabit the area.
Sustainability the world over is also crucially more and more about social sustainability. Together with environmental and economic sustainability, social sustainability is also about creating and maintaining a healthy and liveable community.
Tyndrum, as with countless other settlements across the planet, faces many challenges in this respect: creating sustainable forms of employment, sustainable housing, social amenities, and services.
Tourism remains central to the future health of the village and this part of the Highlands. But the test for the local population and statutory authorities is to promote this while enhancing the liveability of the area – for all life forms.
If Tyndrum can pull this off, it will become a model for similar kinds of settlements across the world, and through this it will connect globally in many other ways.
Visit the Gold Town page on OpenLearn, to find out more about the series, watch interviews with geologists, and for information on related OU qualifications, modules and free courses.
Read Gold Rocks Scotland, a blog by fellow OU Gold Town adviser Dr Julie Robson.
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