Friday, 19 October 2018

Drakelands Mine, the hot topic at the October Mining Sundowner

Another good turnout last night in Falmouth, for the last of this year's sundowners at the Chain Locker pub.
We were pleased to welcome Mark and Karen Wolle to their first sundowner. Mark graduated from Camborne School of Mines in 1978, and has his own company in South Wales, E3 Recycling Ltd, which recovers copper and precious metals from WEEE using mineral processing techniques. He has two shaking tables manufactured by Physical Separation '19 sponsor Holman-Wilfley Ltd, who also provided the shaking tables for Wolf Minerals' ill-fated Drakelands tungsten-tin mine just across the border in Devon.
With Mark Wolle and Holman-Wilfley's Dave Goldburn
The talk last night was dominated by tungsten. Last week I was in China, which has the largest reserves and production of tungsten in the world, with the country's annual tungsten production of 64,000 being equivalent to over 83% of the global production. Ironically while I was away, Drakelands, near Plymouth in Devon, was forced to close down. Only a month ago Wolf had agreed to sponsor Physical Separation '19 and to provide delegates with a mine visit (posting of 1st October), which unfortunately will now not happen.
The ill-fated mine lost £100 million in just three years because its processing plant failed to deal with the early difficult ore and the fall of global prices saddling Wolf Minerals (UK) with enormous debts.
There had been fears that Drakelands could close as early as 2016, and so when Wolf Minerals (UK) Ltd finally went into administration on October 10, it seemed like the inevitable conclusion to the venture.
Ironically, world wide tungsten prices had been rising in the 18 months before the mine closed, and recovery levels had improved as the processing plant began to deal with the deeper granitic rock, rather than the shallower fine-grained weathered deposits. There are hopes that the mine could be saved but it would need huge investment into a processing plant which has never hit targets. The open-pit operation might attract potential new operators as it has lots of valuable ore and infrastructure already in place. European tungsten mining firms could potentially take control of the mine, one of the largest tungsten reserves outside of China. There are tungsten mines in Austria, Portugal and Spain that might have a future interest in Drakelands.
Twitter @barrywills

1 comment:

  1. These are the kind of problems mining and processing plants would face in the future. We mineral engineers have think "different" than conventional gravity processes based on water. May be we have to look at other industries like food/pharmaceuticals to learn a few ideas from them, tune them to suit our mineral properties. Many challenges leading to opportunities to young generation mineral engineers to come out with novel approaches and bring down the costs of mineral processing.


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