Sunday, 15 March 2015

An international gathering for the CSM Annual Dinner

Around 250 current and past students and staff of the Camborne School of Mines descended on Falmouth for last night's CSM Annual dinner. Past students had flown in from all over the globe, from as far as Australia, for what is always a great occasion, which invariably throws up a few surprises.
The first person I met in the Falmouth Hotel bar was Ray Manser. Although we swap Christmas cards it is 30 years since we last saw Ray and his wife Sally. I supervised Ray's PhD project on shaking table modelling in the mid-80s, and he is now Senior Systems Engineer with Fairport Engineering in the north of England.
With Ray and Sally Manser
Joe Bayah and his wife Glenda had flown in from Guyana. Joe, a 1980 graduate, is currently working on a magnesite project in Guyana.
With Joe and Glenda Bayah
It was good to meet the new Director of CSM, Kip Jeffrey (MEI Online), pictured below with CSM Trust Director Tony Batchelor.
Kip and Tony
After an excellent dinner, Kip gave his maiden speech as Director, highlighting the current healthy status of CSM and exciting plans for the future.
Kip sets the scene
Despite being a graduate of 'the other place', the Royal School of Mines, the guest speaker, Russell Clark got a fine reception. Russell is managing director of Wolf Minerals, who this summer will be opening the Drakelands tungsten-tin mine a few miles east of Plymouth, which will become the first new metals mine in England since the Wheal Jane copper and tin mine in Cornwall reopened for business in 1971 (posting of 10 July 2014).
“This mine has the potential to be the biggest tungsten mine in the western world and, if we just build it to the base case, it will be the second biggest,”  said Russell.
Planning permission was granted to the site in the late 1980s, but the end of the Cold War scuppered the mine. The former Soviet Union and the United States released enormous stockpiles of tungsten, which is used in weaponry and machinery because it is one of the hardest naturally occurring substances. Tungsten was mined briefly in the area during the two world wars.
He said that there had been little local opposition to the mine. “People think that as you’re on Dartmoor, there must be protests. I have never seen support like this.” The company has asked local parish councils to allow it to operate seven days a week, a step that would improve the economics of the mine. Sparkwell, one of the local parishes, has already voted in favour. 
“We’re lucky we are in an area that has a mining history,” he said. “A lot of local people are used to seeing a pit, used to seeing a quarry, and they recognise it’s good for the economy.”  Wolf is planting 40,000 trees to protect views and has built three “bat hotels” to create havens for the endangered animals.
Production of tungsten is dominated by China, which has about 60 per cent of global reserves. “Like many commodities, the tungsten price has been down in the dumps, but we think it’s going to come back quite strongly,” he said. “Unlike oil, coal or iron ore, it’s not caused by a glut in supply — it’s caused by people destocking and general demand.”
The local population certainly appear to be buying in: Wolf recently started advertising for equipment operators and about 900 candidates applied for 40 jobs.  Among those the mine has already recruited is 1980 CSM graduate Charlie Northfield, the manager of the processing plant. He left Plymouth in 1981 to work in a diamond mine in Sierra Leone and spent the next few decades working on overseas mining projects, most recently in Malaysia.  "I have been coming back to the UK regularly over the years, but to come back and be able to stay has been fantastic,” he said. Charlie will be back in Falmouth again in May to present a paper on the status of the processing plant at Physical Separation '15.

Charlie and Russell with Drakelands operations manager Jeff Harrison
It was a great night, with excellent company and food, and I thank Claire Yelland, secretary of the CSM Association, for her tireless efforts in organising this annual event.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Barry - it was my pleasure, as always. Another great evening had by all - what a fabulous bunch CSMers are. Thank you also to Russell Clark for attending as our Guest Speaker. A very interesting and amusing speech - I think all would agree.

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    1. Yes it is a great institution Claire, and you do a great job in keeping the momentum going. I spent 6 years at Leeds University, and when I left - not a thing afterwards! Thanks also to Flee Wilshaw for the wonderful 1980 reunion on Saturday, and for asking me and Barbara to be a part of it.

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