Electric car boom ushers in new era of tin mining in Cornwall: Poldark mine’s £1.4bn boost after new deposits are discovered as prices for metal rocket
A new era of Poldark mining is drawing closer after Cornish Metals revealed that there are bigger reserves of tin in the county than previously thought.
There is £1.4billion of the metal, which is used in electric batteries, around the South Crofty mine near Redruth, the company said yesterday.
About 65,000 tonnes of tin are thought to be in the area and tin prices have rocketed in recent months to more than $33,000 (£23,380) per tonne.
The findings are a huge boost to Cornwall, which is one of the UK’s most deprived regions and a focus of the Government’s levelling up agenda.
Cornish Metals plans to mine the tin, providing much needed jobs and investment.
The news comes as Cornwall is gearing up to host the G7 meeting at St Ives, which will see political leaders from all over the world descend on the seaside town.
Cornish Metals has planning permission to renovate the mine and build a processing plant nearby.
The AIM-listed group wants to restart operations at a site, where tin was mined from the 1590s until 1998.
It believes it could have everything up and running in four years’ time.
Cornwall had some of the richest copper and tin reserves on earth during the 18th and early 19th century, and the county’s mining technology was the most sophisticated in the world.
During this heyday, highly skilled miners were sent to nations including Australia, South Africa and Mexico to establish nascent industries.
It is claimed that the Cornish pasties they made helped to inspire international dishes such as Mexico’s ‘pastes’.
In Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, set in that era, hero Ross Poldark’s family had made their fortune in Cornish copper mines.
The stories were adapted in two hit BBC TV series starring Robin Ellis in the 1970s and Aidan Turner more recently.
Cornish Metals chief executive Richard Williams said: ‘The potential here is enormous – there’s 2,000 years of mining history here.
‘We will use mining technology and techniques and, hopefully, this is just the start.
‘If you can build one mine here you could encourage lots more investment.
‘We have a lot of mining experts in the region, many of whom still live in Cornwall but ply their trades all over the world. Mining will bring highly paid and highly skilled jobs into the local economy.’
Richard Williams said the mine could create around 1,300 jobs – 280 or so directly and potentially 1,000 indirectly – in an economically deprived area.
Around 150 local investors who have put their own money into the company could benefit too.
Britain’s mining industry has been seeing a revival for several years and demand for tin is likely to keep soaring as there is not enough supply to meet the needs of companies and countries now ploughing money into what has been dubbed the ‘green industrial revolution’.
Last September another firm, Cornish Lithium, said it had found ‘globally significant’ amounts of lithium in underground waters.
And UK retail shareholders got heavily involved in another mining project, Sirius Minerals, in North Yorkshire.
But that imploded at the start of 2020 and had to be rescued by mining giant Anglo American after it failed to raise billions of pounds to develop its sprawling fertiliser mine under the North York Moors national park.
The collapse of Sirius wiped out the pensions and life savings of hordes of Yorkshire locals who had enthusiastically backed the project.
Cornish Metals needs to raise far less than Sirius required, at £85million, which Williams said could be done over several fundraising rounds.
But beyond the county, the rest of the UK could benefit from Cornwall’s transformation back into a mining hub.
Green metals such as tin and lithium are hard to get hold of, and manufacturing companies in Britain are likely to be keen to purchase local supplies.
Williams said a number of firms have already been in touch. No agreements have been signed yet, though when a mine is being built it is usual for a potential customer to enter talks for what is called an ‘offtake agreement’.
This means that in exchange for providing some funding for the project, they will be able to receive a portion of the materials produced by the mine.
Williams said: ‘Tin is essential in batteries and the rise in prices has been driven by this.
‘We see an opportunity to tap into end users like electronics or car makers, who might want to secure that supply by investing in us at the development stage.’
The South Crofty mine is also likely to be much more environmentally friendly than many other mines.
According to Williams, there are empty areas underground that could be safely turned into places where Cornish Metals could dispose of waste from the mine.
This would mean it would not need to create a separate waste area – known as a ‘tailings’ dam or pond – above ground.