Wednesday, 29 May 2013


An opportunity for Cornwall?
With tin prices close to around $20,000 (£13,300 pound) a tonne there is a bit of a Tin mining frenzy kicking off in Cornwall where Marine Minerals Ltd (MML) are currently searching the seabed off for the tin tailings washed down from the old mines. It has been estimated that perhaps around 40% of the tin mined that was once mined on land is now sitting on the seabed. The plan is to sift the seabed at least 200m from the low water mark off the coast at St Ives Bay, Porthtowan and Perran. Elsewhere Treliver Minerals (UK exploration company) is test drilling for tin at Treliver Farm, near St Columb Major. At Callington an Australian mining firm New Age Exploration plans to re-open the old Redmoor mine.

The off shore plans are opposed by environmental groups and surfers who are concerned that it will destroy the natural habitat and the beach breaks. MML rejects the arguments and has launched a £500,000 environmental assessment before making an extraction licence application to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). MML say that  the extraction process will use perhaps three tracked vehicles on the seabed sucking up the sand for sifting on a ship. The Cornwall-based firm is proposing to sift 2m tonnes of sand from the seabed every year for 10 years, with about 95% of that material going straight back onto the seabed. The rest will be brought ashore to produce about 1,000 tonnes of tin a year, with the waste possibly going into old clay pits in the St Austell area.

The MMO's has expressed its concerns in relation to possible impact of mining operations on marine life (including oysters and sea snails around Perran which is a proposed Marine Conservation Zone), St Ives Bay, which is an "important" migratory route and feeding area for sea trout, Atlantic Salmon and shell-fish production in St Ives Bay. They also have concerns about the stirring up of heavy metals on the seabed and an increase in algal blooms, the impact on tourism (due to noise close to the shore) and the £64 million pound local surfing industry.

The  question of jobs will loom large, as Cornwall has suffered years of economic neglect at the hands of Westminster. If the UK economic gets cold, then Wales gets flu and Cornwall pneumonia. I am sure that the Duchy of Cornwall (which is justifiably under fire for its activities) will endeavour to get more than its fair share along with the Mining companies, but, what about the people of Cornwall? Rather than business as usual where distant Westminster has the final say and then helps itself to the lion’s share of potential revenues perhaps the decision should be made by the Cornish and any mining license and extraction fees should sit in a ring fenced Cornish Sovereign Wealth Fund – just a thought?

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