Monday, 31 August 2015

Wheal Jane is still very much alive

Many of you who visited Cornwall in the 1970s and 80s will have called in at the Wheal Jane mine near Truro, which produced tin, copper, zinc and silver.

Although the mine closed in 1992, the site is still very active, and regularly visited by minerals people from overseas, but for different reasons. SGS Minerals and Wardell Armstrong International, both based on site, have extensive laboratory and pilot plant mineral processing facilities and carry out testwork for clients from many parts of the world. Only 5 months ago, as a result of client demand for a copper porphyry project in Kazakhstan, WAI purchased a SAGDesign test mill from Starkey & Associates of Canada, the first to be installed in the UK (posting of 27th March).

A few days ago I called in at SGS Minerals Services UK to catch up with two visitors from Turkey. Zafir Ekmekci I know very well, as he represents Turkey on the Editorial Board of Minerals Engineering. He and his colleague Hakan Hassoy, from Polimetal Mining were in Cornwall for 3 days to work with SGS on the evaluation of a Turkish copper-zinc ore.
With Hakan Hassoy, SGS's Varun Gopalakrishnan and Zafir Ekmekci
Nigel MacDonald (left) with Physical Separation '15 delegates

This was my first visit to the new SGS offices and laboratories, and I was most impressed, not only by the facilities but also by the enthusiasm of its relatively young 16 strong team of mineral processors, many being graduates from nearby Camborne School of Mines (CSM). Their passion and motivation is exemplified by Nigel MacDonald, who as well as being operations manager also finds time to act as a very knowledgeable volunteer guide at the King Edward Mine Museum. Nigel has worked all over the world in the mineral processing industry for the last 30 years.

Some of the SGS team: Tim Sambrook, Varun Gopalakrishnan, Nigel MacDonald,
Dave Goldburn, Mike Cook, Dominic Comybeare and Jo Byrne
SGS is a world leader in inspection, verification, testing, and certification. The mining business line consists of regional offices serving local markets each of which calls upon a network of field leaders, experts, and, when necessary, equipment, and SGS Minerals Services UK Ltd is the headquarters for the ‘wider-European’ metallurgical operations. It was born out of Holman Wilfley Associates (HWA), which originally focused on gravity separation by Holman and Wilfley tables. As time progressed the need for expanded services and technical skills saw the implementation of flotation and magnetic testing facilities which lead to the acquisition of HWA by SGS in 2009. Since 2009, SGS has made multi-million pound investment in the Cornwall office and integrated it within the wider SGS Minerals strategic vision. Priding itself upon the strong relationships it holds with other local companies within Cornwall and Devon, SGS Cornwall regularly collaborates with the Wheal Jane Group, Grinding Solutions and clients such as Wolf Minerals on their Drakelands deposit. The team attracts the top talent from the Camborne School of Mines Minerals Engineering course and is always looking for the best new talent (those interested can email their CV to

The team is passionate about progressing the mining services sector within Cornwall and is involved in a range of initiatives to support the industry within the country. SGS has had a large part to play in the provision of Geochemistry data to the new Drakeland’s mine in Devon, which will become the fourth largest tungsten mine in the world (posting of 10 July 2014). In early 2015 SGS was successful in a bid for the contract for an onsite Geochemistry lab due to its local experience and global experience in running onsite laboratories for clients across the globe.

What I found particularly interesting is that SGS Cornwall recognises the importance of retaining mining skills within Cornwall and in 2015 started several initiatives to train the next generation of Cornish engineers and technicians. Currently SGS Cornwall is operating a Metallurgical Internship programme to offer high quality mining graduates / CSM undergraduates and 3-month training placement as a transition to further study in Minerals Engineering. Demand for these internship positions has been high, with candidates applying from across the globe. Within the lab, a bespoke 2-year training scheme is being implemented for the locally recruited technicians to develop their skills to a high level. Highly skilled technicians are vital to the impeccable QA/QC for which SGS is known but also provides an opportunity for Cornish technicians to transition to careers as metallurgists.

Partnering with local education institutions is recognised within SGS as part of the company’s ethos of sustainable development through working with the communities where their offices are based. SGS Cornwall is currently in discussion with Cornwall College and Camborne School of Mines to identify opportunities to work more closely together and bring the opportunities of a career in mining to more young people within Cornwall. As these plans develop, SGS intends to keep MEI informed so that the wider mining community can hear about the great talent developing within the county.

My recent visits to WAI and SGS at the Wheal Jane site have shown me that exciting things are going to be happening for Cornish mining over the next few years and I will certainly be reporting on developments as things progress.

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