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Home / World / Britain's last tin mine could be reopened as technology companies hunt down ethical metals

Britain's last tin mine could be reopened as technology companies hunt down ethical metals



In Cornwall, the former mining center of the world, there are more than 2,000 abandoned engine houses, many of them along the rugged coastline. The tin mining and smelting in this southwestern corner of rural England goes back millennia. But in the late 19th century, when new occurrences were discovered in East Asia and South America, English tin became no longer competitive and Cornish miners dispersed to new prospects overseas.
Cornwall has been fighting ever since. According to the EU, it is the second poorest region in Northern Europe and has a higher rate of child poverty and homelessness than the rest of the UK. Now his fate can look up again. Ruined tin mines could be revived as tech companies and automakers look for ethical sources for the metal. And the last mine closed ̵
1; South Crofty – could be the first to be reopened.
"The ethical aspect of today's high-tech world is a very important issue, certainly in tin," said Richard Williams, CEO of Strongbow Exploration, a Canadian company that plans to re-establish the South Crofty mine by 2021 to open. "End users and investors are pushing for a clean supply chain."
Tin is considered the glue of the technology world. As a solder in printed circuit boards of many consumer electronic devices and as an additive in batteries, it is an important component in smart phones, electric vehicles and 5G technology. Worldwide tin consumption rose more than 2.5% last year, and the International Tin Association expects growth to continue.
"So there will be a growing demand for tin," Williams said. "And what better way is there to avoid the concept of bringing tin from potential conflict areas or areas where you are exploiting children than to mine here in Cornwall."
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When it re-opens, South Crofty becomes the only functioning tin mine in Europe (excluding Russia). or North America. However, the revival will require more time and investment. Three hundred meters underground, the company has to overlook and drain hundreds of miles of tunnels.

In addition, hundreds of people have to be recruited to work in the underground, which could be a difficult task in an area where many people live have moved to office jobs and jobs in the service and tourism industries. However, Cornwall continues to educate mining engineers and geology experts at the Camborne School of Mines Penryn.

"There are many ex-graduates who came from Camborne who were actually trained in South Crofty and now practice their craft around the world," Williams said. "But many of them still live in Cornwall, and I'm sure many of them would like to return and work at South Crofty instead of traveling internationally."

  Keith Russ, a technical service technician, stands in a tunnel at South Crofty Tin Mine.
At a time when the economic impact of Brexit is looming in this part of the UK – Cornwall is dependent on 55% of its exports to the European Union and receives millions of pounds from EU regional development funds every year. Local officials say the efforts needed to reopen the mine are worth it.

"It would be great to see [a revival]," said Mark Camp, spokesman for Visit Cornwall and tour guide for historic mining in Cornwall. "Cornwall now relies on tourism for much of its income, so it would be great to see how mining returns."

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Strongbow exploration, which also explores the potential for lithium mining in Cornwall, said the mine will provide 275 jobs in create the region. The decline in the British pound since the Brexit referendum in 2016 means that Cornish minerals can compete again on world markets .

"In our eyes, this is Brexit proof," Williams said. "One of the points that we make to the Cornwall Council, and especially the United Kingdom, is that you can not move a tin deposit."

Although tin mining is not returning to Cornwall on a large scale, tourism, inspired by the county's industrial past, is expected to further boost the economy. Approximately 4.5 million visitors flock to the peninsula every year, and the number of visitors to historic mines is increasing, thanks also to the BBC drama Poldark and the designation of the pewter coast as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

  A restored headframe in the old Geevor tin mine in Pendeen, Cornwall,

Families that have operated for decades from the mining industry Can swung into tourism.

Mark Wills, owner of Blue Hills Tin, a mining and tin jewelry store visitor center, said his father was the last of four generations to work underground.

"When the [tin] price fell in the late 1980s, wholesale sales were no longer profitable, so we gradually renovated some old machines on site and started to sell them ourselves," he said ,

Today, Blue Hills Tin attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in the history of 4000-year-old tin production.

"It really stimulates the imagination," Wills said. "Whether people are only interested in the architecture of the buildings or in the physical processes that the mineral has to go through."

Strongbow's research suggests that South Crofty has some of the highest grade cinders in the world. Cornwall's imprisonment with tin could not just be a thing of the past.


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