MPUMALANGA's efforts to promote "rare sport" has paid off after the province secured the right to host the 2012 World Gold Panning Championships.
Gold panning is a traditional sport where participants are given a gold pan and a bucket of sand with hidden gold nuggets. Participants then pan out the nuggets and the winner must pan out the most nuggets in the shortest space of time.
The number of nuggets in the buckets is only known by the chief judge and participants are penalised for lost nuggets.
The Mpumalanga sport department has for the last three years promoted gold panning, especially among blacks. The province now has teams in all its regions.
This year's championships were held in Biella, Italy, from August 13 to 25. The 2012 games will take place in Pilgrims Rest near Graskop.
Bidding to host the world championships is done three years before the event. The World Gold Panning Association organises annual championships where the association's member countries participate.
Mpumalanga sports MEC Vusi Shongwe led South Africa's bid.
Shongwe applauded the World Gold Panning Association for ensuring that the game continues to grow in all countries that are members of the association.
"The association's support to member countries and their guidance is applauded as we are all brought together by the common interest of taking gold panning to new heights," Shongwe said.
He said the South African government, through Mpumalanga, was "proud of the work that has been done by the South African Gold Panning Association as more and more people in our country are now taking an interest and participating in the sport". Shongwe said the South African government was fully behind the province.
The WGPA was satisfied that South Africa would organise and successfully host the championships as the country had previously hosted the competition in 2005 which was regarded as one of the WGPA's most successful events.
During this year's championships, Surprise Thulelo made South Africa proud when he scooped gold in the juniors' category. Fellow South African, Martin Nsimbi won silver.
South Africa was rated number five in the overall standings.