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Hopes raised for new Cornish tin mine to open within five years

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

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Cornwall's historic tin mining tradition could be restored within five years if ongoing tests prove deposits worth up to a billion dollars are commercially viable.

Exploration company Treliver Minerals is currently test drilling at Treliver Farm, near St Columb Major, but has identified rich areas of tin across Mid Cornwall.

Depending on the results, a mine could be opened in mid-2017, creating hundreds of new jobs and pumping millions of pounds into the local economy.

"Tin is currently trading at $24,700 per metric ton – circa £16,000 per metric ton," Mark Thompson, managing director of Treliver Minerals said.

"We have an internal exploration target of five million to ten million tons of ore grading between 0.3 per cent and 0.4 per cent. This gives 15,000 to 40,000 tons of contained tin worth up to $1 billion."

South Crofty Mine in Pool, near Camborne, was Europe's last when it shut in 1998 after the price of tin hit an all-time low.

But attention has turned back to Cornwall with the price of tin, driven by demand largely from the electronics industry, now five times its $5,000-ton price in 1998 and with other mines due for closure.

In addition to long-standing plans to reopen South Crofty, surveys are due to start off the North Cornwall coast to assess whether tin deposits washed out to sea from previous mining activities can be extracted.

Treliver Minerals is following up on initial explorations carried out by Billiton Exploration UK Ltd in the 1980s which included the taking of more than 10,000 soil samples.

Initial results from the test drilling could be known in 6-8 weeks. If positive, Mr Thompson believes a mine could open at Treliver Farm in a few years.

He added: "Best case scenario would be 18 months to drill it out, one year to prepare mine plans, environmental studies and feasibility studies, one year to permit and one year to build it – so mid-2017."

If the mine were to open, Mr Thompson said, there could be as many as 600 jobs created as a result.

"It is too early to say how many jobs – my best guess would be circa 200," he added. "On top there is a mining multiplier of other jobs created from suppliers and services, generally estimated to be two or three times as many as the direct employment."

Concerns have been aired by local residents about the prospect of a new mine opening in the area.

But Mr Thompson said: "Our policy is to be open with all our local stakeholders and anyone who might be positively or negatively affected by any future development.

"It is, of course, far too early to say whether this will be a mine or not, whether it will be open pit or underground and how big any surface footprint will be.

"My guess though is it is at best a one-in-three chance of being a mine and if so would be less than 1% of the footprint of the china clay pits."

Councillor Pat Harvey, chairman of Cornwall Council and a ward member for St Columb Major, said it had been brought to her attention recently. She said: "There is a rig on site and it could be as long as 18 months before the results of tests to realise if this area is worth mining have been completed and analysed.

"This could bring jobs to the area and much regeneration, but it will depend on the results of the tests. There are also a number of issues which will need to go through the planning process in the future."

While drilling continues in Mid Cornwall, a survey of tin reserves on the seabed between St Ives and Perranporth is expected to begin this weekend. Marine Minerals Ltd (MML) believes millions of pounds' worth of tin is lying within sand, having being washed out to sea during historic mining activities.

Results from the two-week survey, which is focused on an area some 200 metres out to sea, will help establish whether the project is profitable. While MML wants to filter, rather than dredge, for the tin, fears have been raised about potential damage to the environment as well as to the tourism industry.

John Sewell, MML's commercial manager, the "challenge" was whether the tin could be removed "in a way that is environmentally and socially, as well as commercially, viable".

He added: "We obviously believe that the answer is yes, which is why we are pursuing the project."

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8 comments

  • Amandapanda  |  July 27 2013, 10:35AM

    I live in the village that they are planning to mine around and am devastated by the news, Yes it will create jobs but it is not sustainable employment. They only plan to mine for a small window of time and once the tin runs out they will be gone. The additional houses that are built and the employees drawn in from other counties will be back to unemployment and back on the dull in no time. Is this really what Cornwall needs? http://tinyurl.com/pju8nng

  • Carvath  |  February 16 2013, 12:09PM

    Yes Gurnards_Head I think you're right. I did not notice the tin grades when I looked at the article; they may have expanded it throughout the day.

  • Gurnards_Head  |  February 15 2013, 4:47PM

    Well there yer go, perhaps Cornwall Council know something we dont hence the dash for mass housing so the Yorkie miners have somewhere to live when they are imported. The price of tin will dictate the agenda and job vacancies will be filled, better a few mines the financial benefits will ripple out into the wider economy than the non jobs that are created by so called development agencies to make things look good. Real jobs for real people where ever they may originate from, earning high wages that are spent locally is what is needed to get our local economy back on track. Carvath you are right but this sounds like an opencast operation working on very low ore grades which would not support deep mining. Lets hear it for the miners who we hope will mine again.

    |   3
  • shagrats  |  February 15 2013, 2:12PM

    Any jobs for geologists ?

  • albru  |  February 15 2013, 10:43AM

    I can just see large parts of Cornwall embracing new tin mines with all the pollution that involves! And how many young Cornish miners have we got then? Last time the industry had a serious revival in the 60s they had to import Yorkshire miners!

  • buzzzz  |  February 15 2013, 10:18AM

    We have heard this fable before Once upon a time there was a mine in Pool with a huge amount of tin inside. Its worth a fortune so the owners decide to extract it in a few years. Loads of promises follow the talk of jobs galore for all until the owners change hands after receiving public money and the price of tin falls. Poor old mine is now in a state of disrepair until the wind changes and its decided to open it again. The End

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  • Carvath  |  February 15 2013, 9:20AM

    What we like to hear. Surprised about the location though. Historic mines of that area were small.

    |   3
  • Big_Ger  |  February 15 2013, 8:33AM

    It must be spring, the first "Crofty to re-open" story has been spotted. (Seriously though, fingers crossed for a good result.)

    |   8

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