Work starts at first British metals mine in 45 years

Work starts at first British metals mine in 50 years

Britain's Hemerdon mine. Photo: Google Images

Excavation work has started at what is said to be Britain's first metals mine in nearly half a century.

The Drakelands mine in Devon will boost local employment by exploiting one of the world's largest tungsten resources.

Demand for tungsten, used in making super-hard steel, is increasing as China, which produces more than 80% of the world's supply, limits its export.

The new mine, operated by Australian metals company Wolf Minerals (ASX:WLF), is expected to produce 3,500 tonnes of tungsten concentrate per year, roughly 3.5% of forecast global demand.

The mine on the outskirts of Dartmoor is also seen creating 200 jobs. While some in the area are unhappy about the idea of a large-scale open pit mine in their back yard, many welcome the development amid declining employment in farming, shipyards and fishing ports.

Operations manager Jeff Harrison told British newspaper The Guardian that most people have been supportive.

"They want us to do it right, they want us to restore the site once mining is complete, but most see that this will bring benefits to a community that needs it," the paper quoted Harrison as saying.

The mine site, formerly known as Hemerdon, has long been exploited, with evidence of mining activity dating back to the Bronze Age.

Work there stopped after World War II, during which tungsten was needed for ammunition. But rising tungsten prices now make reviving the mine viable.