Friday, 20 January 2017

Talk of lithium and tin over a few pints

There was much to talk about last night, at the first Cornish Mining Sundowner of the year, held at the County Arms in Truro. It was very well attended, despite a few of the regulars being missing.

It was particularly good to see so many Camborne School of Mines (CSM) students, and it is always great to hear them talk enthusiastically about their future careers in the mining industry.
Barbara with CSM students
There were also a number of CSM alumni present. After leaving CSM with a PhD Klaas van der Wielen worked with Swiss company Selfrag and then with Wolf Minerals at the Drakelands tungsten mine in Devon. This month he took up a position with Truro-based Grinding Solutions Ltd, and it was good to see him back at a sundowner, along with his boss Nick Wilshaw.
A concentration of mineral processors at the bar
And always good to see our old friend Bentley Orchard, formerly with FLSmidth, then Weir Minerals, but now happily retired and a member of a local male voice choir.
Barbara with Bentley Orchard
Making his sundowner debut was CSM alumnus Tom Clifford, Consultancy Director of Riventa, Truro, a team of global water pump energy specialists. Tom played football for CSM and his company agreed to sponsor the current team, and below he is seen donating a cheque for £600 to club treasurer Jake Dowling.
And yes, much to discuss last night, particularly the headline news of the day, lithium. It has long been known that there are lithium brines in contact with granite in the local groundwater, which may be exploited, not only for this metal, but also for its heat; the high geothermal gradient could mean that the mine water has potential for sale to local housing and industries for heating purposes (see also posting of 10 May 2010).
High levels of lithium readings were first recognised in 1864 in water flowing into Cornish mines, but there was then no market for this lightest of metals, and when the mines in Cornwall closed it was largely forgotten. Now lithium, vital for rechargeable batteries, has been named a strategically important mineral for the UK by the Government because of its importance for developing industries and its scarcity. At present, it is mainly mined in remote parts of Chile, Australia and Nevada in the USA but without a home grown source of lithium the UK would be vulnerable to shortfall as global demand increases.
In a major announcement made to the Stock Market yesterday morning, private firm Cornish Lithium, led by Camborne School of Mines graduate Jeremy Wrathall, confirmed that it has secured the rights to develop and extract, via deep drill holes, the lithium deposits under Cornwall, undertaking the largest, single unified exploration project in the county's history, the vast deposits having the potential to unleash a new major industry in the county.

As yet there has been no mention of the economics of extracting the lithium from the waters, which is a slow process, involving evaporation then leaching. In the major lithium brine regions evaporation is by solar radiation in large ponds, which may not be too practical in the mild and wet Cornish climate.
Cornish Lithium has signed agreements to develop potential deposits beneath the ground held by three main landowners in Cornwall, including the Tregothnan estate of Lord Falmouth and South Crofty in Pool, which is at the centre of a potential resurgence in tin mining.
And although I have been sceptical about the tin mining revival at South Crofty, it does look like things are actually happening. Siltbuster Process Solutions (SPS) is taking part in trials to show the treatability of the mine water from South Crofty, which closed in 1998. Once completed, the results will be used to show the viability of dewatering and the reopening of the mine. SPS has been asked to treat the mine water (which includes dissolved contaminates and metals in solution, principally iron) by reducing the metal content to allow safe discharge of the water to the nearby Red River. If successful, the trial will be an important next step in the reopening of the mine, for Strongbow Exploration Inc., which acquired it in July 2016.
So, fingers crossed that 2017 might be the year of the great revival of the Cornish, as well as the global, mining industry.

Twitter @barrywills


  1. I would particularly like to congratulate and thank Steve Pendray on securing sponsorship for the purchase of the CSM Football team's kit and a big thank you to Tom Clifford for his valued donation.

  2. Cornish Mining seem to have hit not only a jackpot but these findings would have global implications.
    I am glad you brought this very good news to public attention.


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