Thursday, 8 March 2018

South Crofty

It is 20 years ago this week that South Crofty sadly closed its gates for the last time. When I got elected, I said that my number one priority was economic regeneration. One of my hopes, which has remained a little elusive, is that South Crofty might re-open. But this week, fittingly, things took a step forward as Strongbow Exploration, the current owners of the mine, confirmed that they have raised the funds required to de-water the mine.
 
South Crofty’s headgear is iconic and known across the world as Cornwall’s last standing tin mine. I have been working with various stakeholders on plans to secure its future.
 
One of the challenges we face is ensuring that the “Red River” does not run red again. In the mining days of the past, various pollutants entered the water and gave it a red appearance (hence the name). We have to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and that we protect the ecology in and around the river. I worked with the Environment Agency and Strongbow, the owners of the mine, to find the right kind of filtration and water purification processes and permits were then issued late last year.
 
As always with mining, there have been many false starts. Tin prices vary, but have rallied of late. Demand for tin has increased dramatically. It is the main element used in solder, which joins up electronic circuit boards on mobile phones, tablets and TVs. These changes mean world tin prices are currently at around 20,000 dollars per tonne – an 8-10 fold increase on 1998. Strongbow believes that it could be in commercial production by as early as 2020, if things go to plan. They plan to build a new mine in the valley on the edge of the old site.
 
We have also learnt that Cornwall has considerable lithium reserves, including in South Crofty. Cornish Lithium is exploring for lithium within the hot springs that naturally occur beneath the surface in and around Cornish granites. The government as earmarked lithium as a metal of strategic importance to the country, and its use in electric cars makes it an important asset. So, the presence of metals in South Crofty that are in the vanguard of modern electronic technology creates a good chance that mining will resume.
 
Winter storms
 
On a less positive note, I was sorry to learn about the damage done by Storm Emma in recent days. At Maenporth, there has been considerable devastation to local businesses. The car park was seriously damaged and the road was littered with debris and large quantities of sand.
 
At the Helford, there has been extensive damage to the road by the Ferryboat Inn. The road has been all but lost to the sea in the bad weather. I will be visiting both sites this weekend. I have also spoken to local councillor John Bastin who has been in touch with local businesses. I am seeking to speak to Highways to ensure that repairs are carried out quickly. I would also like to thank all of those who have turned out to help clear up in the aftermath of the storm. 

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