Mining firm, Wolf Minerals, has opened the UK’s first new metal mine in 40 years at its Drakelands Mine near Hemerdon, Plymouth. The huge site has one of the largest tungsten and tin resources in the western world. This area has been recognised as an important source of tungsten minerals for many years, and was once worked by Hemerdon Mines. For more history, visit Adit Now.
Darkness Below contacted Wolf Minerals after seeing this report on the BBC news site and received these photographs and some facts on the extensive mining operation.
Tungsten is a hard, heavy, non-corrosive metal with a high melting point an no known substitutes. It is used for a range of industrial, mining and agricultural applications. Its key uses are in cemented carbides, steel alloys, metal products, lighting, drill bits and jewellery.
Worldwide demand for the silver-grey metal is growing and it has been named by the European Commissions as one of the 14 ‘critical raw materials’ essential for the UK economy. China, Europe and the USA are the largest consumers of tungsten and Drakelands is expected to be one of the Western world’s largest tungsten mines.
Most of the valuable tungsten and tin at Drakelands is found in veins with a large deposit of granite. Extraction is by open pit mining, with the final pit measuring 850 metres long, 450 metres wide and 260 metres deep. As the mine workings deepen, the sides of the pit will be cut into benches.
Ore removed from the pit is crushed and ground in the processing plant to free the minerals from the rock, which are then separated using various gravity methods. Each year, and estimated three million tonnes of ore and seven million tons of waste rock will be mined. From this, around 5,000 tonnes of tungsten concentrate and 1,000 tonnes of tin concentrate will be produced.
Waste rock will be stored in a purpose built mine-waste facility, similar to the familiar local china clay tips. The material being stored is classed as non-hazardous.
Wolf Minerals have stressed their environmental commitment and are subjected to stringent monitoring by Devon County Council and the Environment Agency. As part of the development, they have planted in the region of 40,000 trees, constructed bridleways and footpaths and have even created three bat roosts.
Managing director Russell Clark says: “The mine is expected to make a substantial contribution to the Plymouth, Devon and UK economies over the next decade.“