Europe’s last tin mine big step closer to restart

Pumping engine house of the Wheal Coates tin mine in Cornwall, England, UK

Canadian junior Strongbow Exploration Inc (CVE:SBW) announced Friday it has successfully completed water treatment trials at the South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall and is now working on an application to the UK Environment Agency for a mine waste permit.

Strongbow says the application was expected to be filed within one month and permits could be issued before the end of the summer. The Vancouver-based company in a statement said once it receives a mine waste permit with water discharge consent,  South Crofty will be fully permitted.

South Crofty, approximately 390km drive west of London on the Celtic Sea Coast, was the last tin mine in Europe when it closed in 1998. Several companies attempted to revive the flooded mines between 2001 and 2013 but due to poor market conditions the assets were put into administration in 2013.

Strongbow paid in the order of US$2m for 100% of the mining permission area which includes 26 former producing mines. Strongbow filed a National Instrument 43-101  technical report in June last year detailing indicated mineral resources of 1.9 million tonnes grading 1.7% Sn equivalent and 1.2 million tonnes inferred grading at 1.52%.

Existing mine infrastructure that is potentially useable includes 4 vertical shafts with a combined depth of 2,940m. According to Strongbow capital expenditure to restart mining would be minimum US$100 million.  Near surface copper mineralization exists at the site, but Strongbow is focusing on tin-only mineralization that occurs from a depth of 400 meters.

Strongbow also owns tin properties in Alaska and base and precious metal projects in Canada. The little traded company is worth $8.4 million on the TSX Venture Exchange after surging 11% on Friday.

The tin price has rallied to above $20,000 a tonne currently from multi-year lows of $13,200 a tonne hit mid-January last year. The metal reached a record high of $33,600 at the height of the mining boom in 2011.

Nearly 10 million tonnes at an average grade of 1.00% tin were mined at South Crofty between 1906 and 1998. Mining in the area dates back to the Bronze age, flourished during Roman times and reached a peak in the latter half of the 1800s when Cornwall accounted for nearly half the global trade in tin.

Historic Cornwall tin mine could re-open in 2018

Robinson’s Shaft, South Crofty Mine. Image: Chris Allen CC