THE UK’S thickest thieves got away with a few pounds of worthless rock after hiking miles to break into a gold mine.
The Cononish mine is thought to contain up to 20,000 ounces of gold worth around £17m.
But a gang of crooks seemed to be unaware that extracting the precious metal involves mining countless tonnes of rock.
They hiked at least three miles across rough terrain and then used bolt cutters to get into the mine near Tyndrum in the Stirling Council area.
Police said that a small amount of ancient stream sediment was stolen with a value of precisely nothing.
The site, Scotland’s only gold mine, is not expected to extract any gold until 2017.
Scotgold, the company that owns the mine, also hopes to extract 80,000 ounces of silver per year from the site.
Police Scotland are now appealing for Highland walkers who may have seen anyone carrying cutters or acting suspiciously in the Tyndrum area.
They believe that the mine was broken into sometime between 28 May and 1 June.
Sergeant David Hannah said: “The mines are in a remote location and can only be accessed by walking along a three-mile rough track.
“The culprit or culprits have cut the padlocks securing the mines and stolen samples of stream sediment. These samples do not contain gold. No gold or anything else of value is kept at the location.”
Sgt Hannah added: “If you have seen someone in this area carrying bolt cutters or if you know who is responsible then please call Police Scotland on 101 or if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Construction of the Cononish mine began in the 1980s but low gold prices forced its closure before it became fully operational.
In October 2011 it was announced that the mine would be reactivated, though planning difficulties once again delayed the opening.
In the 19th century, the discovery of gold in Fife sparked a mad rush as thousands of Scots headed to the hills around Auchtermuchty and Kinnesswood.
Unfortunately, most had no idea what gold looked like or how to extract it, and many returned with sacks full of glinting minerals known as “fools gold” instead of the real thing.
Nowadays, Scots can pan for gold at several locations around the country, including the Leadhill Estate in South Lanarkshire. In 2002, a 6 gram nugget was discovered by one lucky panner in one of the streams.