The firm behind the £150 million tungsten mine on the outskirts of Plymouth has told its contractor to start work on building the mine.
Speciality metals development company Wolf Minerals Limited has authorised Australia’s GR Engineering Services Limited to commence construction at Hemerdon.
Wolf said this represents a milestone in the development of the project, and sets it on a definitive timeline for construction, commissioning and first production, which is scheduled for mid-2015.
Perth-based GRES was awarded the fixed price £75 million, fixed term engineering, procurement and construction contract for the design, building and commissioning of the three million tonnes per annum tungsten and tin mineral processing plant plus associated infrastructure last June 2013.
The contract term is for 24 months.
GRES has conducted a detailed design of the plant and facilities, as well as procurement of key pieces of equipment, and is now ready to commence construction on the site.
The start of construction follows the finalisation of the purchase of 15 residential properties around the project site required by the project’s planning permission, the issuance of the environmental permit required for the mining waste facility, and the signing of the 40-year lease with the project’s landowners.
Wolf also said that, in addition to having its project operations management team in place, it now has its project manager, Rupert McCracken, and construction manager, Dave Henderson, resident in the UK.
The plan is to process 27 million tons of tungsten during nine-and-a-half years – but there are actually 400 million tons under the ground.
The project is likely to put a large slice of anticipated £70 million annual sales into the Plymouth economy and create jobs ranging from geologists, engineers and mining surveyors to truck drivers.
The open-cast pit Wolf will dig, a more cost-attractive option than an underground mine, is planned to be 200m deep, but the tungsten deposit runs to 400m deep. Wolf Minerals’ managing director Russell Clark said: “We have been focused on achieving the key milestones required to allow construction to commence at the Hemerdon project, and are delighted these are now all in place and construction can commence.
“The Wolf management team is established at its UK base and GRES is mobilising and will commence construction in the very near future. “This is a very exciting time in the company’s development and provides visible proof to the market that the project will be built and that Wolf will be the next significant producer of tungsten concentrate globally.”