PJHOT1002012_VIVEN-JOHNSON-AND-CHRIS-SANGSTER

Vivien Johnston & Chris Sangster, consultant and chief executive, Scotgold Resources

The advent of the green light for Scotland’s first commercial gold mine near Cononish was cause for excitement for the industry and marked success for Vivien Johnston, an ethical jewellery designer who acted as a consultant during the planning application, and for the mine’s chief executive Chris Sangster, for whom it meant a win after years of groundwork and planning.

But how did two strangers come together to work on such a grand scheme? “I rocked up at the Scotgold offices in 2008 asking questions about the environmental impact and proposed mining methods,” says Vivien, with a smile. “But I saw a project that had taken 20 years of commitment, a community who not only accepted but were passionately behind the mine – a rare occurrence indeed – and an enviable line-up of best-practise standard proposals using clean and efficient modern technology. I was very excited at what this meant for UK jewellers and the local economy.”

The ride has indeed been bumpy for this project. It was originally refused planning permission in 2010, which Chris says led to persistence and a continued collaborative approach with all parties to resolve issues arising from the refusal. Vivien stepped in, contacting Chris to see how the pair could collaborate “to show planners how important it was for the industry to have sources of gold from clean gold mines, which also could offer full traceability.”

There was, of course, a unique marketing opportunity in there as well for Scottish jewellers and an exciting home product for both Scottish consumers and tourists.

“There’s a great feeling of excitement and anticipation,” says Vivien. “Basically the feedback from the trade is ‘How soon can I get some?’.”

For Chris, whose background is very much in mining, he says the reaction to the project from locals and the wider industry has been very encouraging. “We hope there will be significant opportunity for Scottish makers to use a Scottish product,” he says.

The year ahead will hold exciting projects for the two, albeit separately. Vivien will begin the hunt for a business partner to expand her ethical jewellery brand Fifi Bijoux, while for Chris 2013 will be all about securing finance for the Scottish gold mine to commence production, with the aim of producing the first batch of gold by the end of the year.