Cornish Metals starts dewatering UK tin mine

South Crofty, about 390km drive west of London on the Celtic Sea Coast, was the last tin mine in Europe when it closed in 1998. (Image courtesy of Cornish Metals.)

Cornish Metals (LON, TSX-V: CUSN) has kicked off work to dewater a past-producing tin mine at its South Crofty project in southwest England.

The Canadian miner said that water pumped from the old mine will be treated at its newly-built $8.5 million plant, at a rate of up to 25,000 cubic metres per day.

It will then be released into the Red River, which meets the sea at Godrevy in St Ives Bay.

The process, which is expected to take 18 months to complete, is part of Cornish Metals’ efforts to reopen the South Crofty tin-copper mine, which has been shut since 1998 following more than 400 years of almost continuous production.

“The start of dewatering of the South Crofty mine is an important milestone for the continued advancement of the project towards an investment decision,” chief executive Richard Williams said in the statement.

The Vancouver-based company noted the project will have a positive impact on water quality in the Red river, as it presently receives untreated water from the mine as a legacy of past mining operations.

The water discharged from South Crofty will serve a dual purpose, the company said, as it will power a hydro-turbine, generating around 15% of the energy required by the water treatment plant.

Cornish’s ultimate goal is to secure a leading place in the development of an industry for the battery metal in the UK.

Producing in 2026

The start-up, formerly known as Strongbow Explorations, completed the acquisition of the South Crofty and United Downs copper-tin projects in 2016. A year later, it finished a preliminary economic assessment, which demonstrated the economic viability of re-opening the operation.

Cornish Metals also acquired additional mineral rights in Cornwall, covering an area of about 15,000 hectares that hold past-producing mines which were historically worked for copper, tin, zinc, and tungsten.

Last year, the company raised about $51 million (£40.5m) in funding, which it will use to construct a mine water treatment plant, as well as dewater the mine, and complete a feasibility study.

There is currently no primary mine production of tin in Europe or North America and the US has included the metal in a list of minerals considered critical to the country’s economic and national security.

South Crofty could generate up to 5,000 tonnes of tin a year, with first production expected in 2026. The company said the mine will create up to 270 direct jobs and support a further 750 in the region, one of the UK’s most underprivileged.