Wolf Minerals is today opening the first new mine in the UK for nearly half a century. Drakelands in Devon will be one of the world’s top five producers of tungsten – one metal whose price has not sunk because of a supply glut in recent years
Ask people about British mining and many are likely to imagine striking coal miners on picket lines, shouting anti-Thatcher slogans and clashing with police.
It is a measure of the industry’s inertia in this country that it this remains the lasting image a good 30 years on – for some, the scars have still not fully healed.
But Wolf Minerals, a little-known Australian company which is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market, is preparing to inject life into the UK’s dormant mining industry.
Thursday is the official grand opening of its Drakelands mine, at the Hemerdon tungsten and tin project on the fringes of Dartmoor, in Devon.
It will be the first new metals mine in the UK for almost half a century, after the wave of closures up and down the country in recent decades.
The most recent reopening was that of the historic Wheal Jane tin mine in Cornwall all the way back in 1969, by the former FTSE 100 company Consolidated Goldfields. It changed hands a couple more times as owners struggled to turn a profit before finally being put to rest in 1992.
The opening of Drakelands will be a nostalgic occasion for mining veteran Nick Clarke, a non-executive director at Wolf Minerals, whose first job in mining was in fact at Wheal Jane.
Most of the plaudits, though, will go to Australian Russell Clark, Wolf’s managing director, who has managed to get the mine up and running in the space of just a couple of years.
While there has been plenty of vocal opposition to other natural resources projects across the UK – especially at fracking and other oil exploration sites – local people have welcomed Drakelands, which will create 200 jobs, with open arms.
Mr Clark told The Independent: “Two years ago I sat on the hill here and there was only trees and grass. Today we have a mine and plant and it’s all running.
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