(Bloomberg) — When work began at the South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall, Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, the first English settlement in America had only just been established, and the world’s trade with the Far East was controlled by Portugal. It shut in 1998 after more than four centuries of continuous operation, a victim of sinking prices.
Now, South Crofty is part of a wave of mining activity across England’s southwestern tip aiming to resuscitate an industry that until recently looked all-but dead. Tin, copper, tungsten and lithium, along with associated geothermal energy, are the focus of companies trying to capitalize on the surge in demand for the raw materials that are key to the shift to clean energy.
For Cornwall, it’s the chance to use past strengths to secure its future in a new world where minerals are strategic, ideally responsibly sourced, and self-sufficiency is key. For the UK, it’s a test of the government’s ability to come up with the money and vision quickly enough to ensure the country doesn’t get left behind.
The evidence on — and under — the ground suggests things are moving, even if hurdles remain for the viability of some projects. “Most of the questions revolve around, why is it taking so long?” said Richard Williams, chief executive officer of Cornish Metals, the owner of South Crofty. “It now just seems to be taking off. Not just here, but around Cornwall.”
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