Thursday, 17 September 2015

Official Opening of the Drakelands Tungsten-Tin Mine

Fourteen months ago I called in at the Wolf Minerals' Drakelands Mine at Hemerdon, near Plymouth, (posting of 10th July 2014) to see how things were progressing on the building of the processing plant with its interesting flowsheet (posting of 25th June). The site was certainly a hive of activity and commissioning took place ahead of schedule, at the end of June.

The processing plant site in June 2014
Speaking at the last CSM Annual Dinner (posting of 15th March) Wolf Minerals Managing Director Russell Clark 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. We’re lucky we are in an area that has a mining history. 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.” 

Production of tungsten is dominated by China, which has about 60 per cent of global reserves, but Drakelands could be the biggest tungsten mine in the Western World. However, since my last visit the price of tungsten, like most metals, has fallen markedly and Russell recently said that if prices were going to stay where they are now for the next 20 years the mine probably would not have been built, but he doesn't believe they will. In a recent interview in The Times (September 2nd 2015) he insisted that the market was at its lowest ebb. "There's going to be a point where people need to go back to the global market. At that point there will be a spike in the tungsten price and we should be in the perfect position to deal with it" he said. There are already signs that the weak market is forcing high-cost operators to shut down, and some private Chinese producers are beginning to close their operations.

No matter what happens, today was a very significant date in the mine's history, and I was privileged to be invited to the mine's official opening ceremony. Prior to that I joined the tour of the processing plant organised for media and brokers, and I was very impressed by how things have progressed since my last visit 14 months ago, the plant now producing 20 tonnes per week of tungsten concentrate.

Due to the high density of wolframite and the by-product cassiterite, gravity concentration dominates the flowsheet, DMS cyclones, spirals and shaking tables producing a combined W-Sn concentrate, from which arsenopyrite is removed by froth flotation.

Crucial to the flowsheet is a kiln which roasts hematite to magnetite, which is removed by low-intensity magnetic separators, before high-intensity magnetic separation separates the tungsten concentrate from the tin concentrate, the latter providing about 10% of revenue.

The DMS cyclone plant
DMS Cyclones
Tables and spirals
Shaking table


  1. Good to see you at the opening yesterday Barry, great to see a new mine opening in England ... the mining industry in the UK is still alive....

    1. Good to see you too Nick, and all the other CSM people. The mine is very impressive, as are its people

  2. Congratulations on your success.
    Very glad that there's a lot of gravitational equipment (tables, spirals, DMS cyclones), there's flotation. Visually, it is clear that the tables work very well. What a beautiful concentrate!
    Natalia Petrovskaya


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