Mining for tungsten and tin is to get under way in Devon next year after Australian miner Wolf Minerals obtained final environmental clearance for the open cast development.
Construction works are to start in January on the site at Hemerdon, near Plymouth, after the Environment Agency granted Wolf a Category A Mining Waste Facility Environmental permit, the first ever awarded in the UK. Works already completed include a link road and work on a £75 million Engineering Procurement and Construction, awarded to GR Engineering Services, started in June.
When production starts next year Hemerden will be one of the world’s largest, high margin tungsten mining operations.
Tungsten, regarded as a strategically important mineral, is found in wolframite, a by product of tin mining, and is the main target of the operation. The mine, said to be the first of any significance to be built in the UK in 45 years, could produce 345,000 tonnes of tungsten and 462 tonnes of tin, creating 200 mining related jobs.
Funding for the development has been in place since May and agreements are in place for selling the tungsten and tin. Hemerden is the third largest known tungsten deposit in the world, with over 60% of the world’s reserves in China which consumes about half of annual world production. Less than 100,000 tonnes of tungsten are produced worldwide annually.
Hemerden was first mined in 1867 but was closed down in 1945. Feasibility studies were conducted in the 1980’s and planning permission granted lasting until 2021. A sharp fall in tungsten prices prevented development up until now but Wolf Minerals has been able to use these old planning permissions.