Friday, 18 May 2018

The Cornish Mining Renaissance is well under way

I missed last month's sundowner so last night's was my first at the newly refurbished Chain Locker pub in Falmouth, with its great view across the inner harbour to Falmouth's Maritime Museum. And I am pleased to report that MEI's Physical Separation '19 and Computational Modelling '19 conferences will be held at the Maritime Museum in June of next year.  Originally scheduled for Cape Town, we are bringing them back to Cornwall to take advantage of the "Cornish Mining Renaissance".  
The inner harbour viewed from the Chain Locker, with the Maritime Museum background centre
The county's various small mining companies, such as Grinding Solutions Ltd, Holman-Wilfley, Petrolab, and of course MEI, are all thriving on the back of a resurgence in the international mining industry. The only active mines in Cornwall at present are the kaolin mines around St. Austell, although just across the border in Devon, Wolf Minerals' tungsten-tin mine seems to be over its early teething problems. Tin is a metal which will always be associated with Cornwall, and the last mine to close, South Crofty, looks well on its way to opening again in the near future. Since the mine closed in 1998 there have been many promises to re-open, none of which came to fruition, so there was much scepticism when Canadian company Strongbow acquired a 100% interest in the South Crofty Tin Project and associated mineral rights in Cornwall. Strongbow is now on course to start production in 2021, after first pumping out water that has accumulated over decades of dereliction.
The demand for tin is increasing, as it now has an important use in the hi-tech industry, not just for solders, but alloyed with indium it is an important ingredient for touch-screens. The electric vehicle revolution has fuelled a demand for lithium and Cornish Lithium will begin drilling for brines at South Crofty next year. It has an agreement with Strongbow that allows it to explore using Strongbow’s mineral rights, with Strongbow getting royalties from any lithium extracted.
So it is all happening here in the South West, and there was a great turnout last night. We were joined by visitors from the Czech Republic, Finland and Spain, members of the REMIX Project, fuelled by Intereg Europe, which is bringing together nine European mining regions to enhance their mining related businesses by regional policy improvements. Prof. Frances Wall of Camborne School of Mines, who will be a keynote speaker at Process Mineralogy '19, is hosting a peer-review for the group and visits to South Crofty, Wheal Jane and Hartlands.
Women in mining.... in mining
Frances Wall (centre) with her European visitors
Amid all the buoyancy there was some sad news of one of the great Camborne School of Mines characters, Ron Hooper, who died yesterday morning at the age of 94. Anyone who passed through CSM during the 60s, 70s and 80s will have fond memories of Ron, who was head of surveying and a respected colleague of mine until his retirement in 1988. A Cornishman who was also a graduate of CSM, he was an active member of the CSM Association, and a regular at the CSM Association Christmas lunches well into his 90s. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his daughter Sue and family.
Ron with sundowner regulars Tony Batchelor and Nick Eastwood
at the CSMA Christmas lunch 2014
Twitter @barrywills

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