Friday, 23 February 2018

Much good news at the Redruth mining sundowner

Last night's February Cornish Mining Sundowner was held at the Trefusis Arms in the historic mining town of Redruth. Amongst the regulars were owners of two of Cornwall's most progressive companies, Nick Wilshaw of Grinding Solutions Ltd, a sponsor of Comminution '18, and James Strongman of Petrolab Ltd, a sponsor of Process Mineralogy '18GSL, who are currently looking to employ more mineral processors for their rapidly expanding business, will be teaming up with Petrolab and others in April to run a one day seminar immediately prior to Comminution '18 in Cape Town. It was also good to see Phil Hingston, of Bisha Mining, Eritrea, and his wife Josephine, and mining entrepreneur Nick Clarke, and his wife Pauline, who recently bought a house in Falmouth.
Barry Wills, Steve Pendray, Pete Shepherd, Nick Wilshaw, James Strongman and Phil Hingston

Josephine Hingston, Barbara Wills, Pauline and Nick Clarke, Bill Hussey,
Alan Matthews, Bentley Orchard and Linda Matthews
Redruth was one of the wealthiest towns in the UK in the 19th century, being the  centre of Cornwall’s former copper and tin mining industry, then the world's largest and richest metal mining area. Although those halcyon days are long passed, there was good news last night of the resurgence of Cornwall's minerals industry.
The Camborne School of Mining was formed in 1888, but the mining school at Redruth preceded it by about 6 years. In 1910 the Redruth and Penzance mining schools were merged with the Camborne school to form the Camborne School of Metalliferous Mining, the modern CSM.  At the last sundowner there was a rumour of mineral processing coming back to CSM, and it was great to hear last night that this is no longer a rumour.  There will be two MSc courses  launched this year, and both have just received full programme approval. One is a one year full-time mineral processing course to be based on the campus which will start in Sept 2018.  This will be open to a wide range of graduates in geology, mining, chemical engineering, or other similar subjects, wishing to specialise in this area. The other course is a three year professional MSc with a significant component on minerals processing, which will start in January 2019.
The great era of Cornish tin mining ended in 1998 with the closure of the South Crofty mine between Camborne and Redruth. Now everyone is optimistic that mining will soon commence again at this old mine. Strongbow Exploration, the Canadian company that is seeking to revive tin production in Cornwall, plans to list this year on London’s AIM exchange for growing companies to raise development funding. Tin prices have been climbing around 8 percent so far this year to nearly $22,000, compared with roughly $5,000 when South Crofty closed and a peak of $33,600 recorded in 2011. There is a high demand for tin now, which has multiple industrial uses, including in electronics.
Strongbow's aim is to get production back in 2021, and the mine has sufficient tin for at least eight years of mine life, although industry sources say the high quality, super-giant lode could carry on producing for decades. It is estimated that around 275 direct jobs and four times that number of indirect roles could be created. The current major project is dewatering the mine and treating the water, and the Environment Agency has issued a permit for the discharge of up to 25,000 cubic metres of treated water into the nearby Red River, which reaches the sea near Gwithian on the north coast; the company estimates that the water will be removed by the end of 2020.
An added bonus for Cornish mining is that Strongbow also has a mineral rights agreement with British company Cornish Lithium, which means it will get royalties from any lithium extracted from brine springs in the area. 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. Cornish Lithium, led by Camborne School of Mines graduate Jeremy Wrathall, 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.
So, much to look forward to as Cornwall's mining heritage takes on a new life. Hopefully more news and gossip at the next sundowner, which will be at the Portreath Arms, in the North Cornwall village of Portreath, on March 22nd.
Twitter @barrywills

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