The revival of tin mining in Europe could be one step closer to reality, thanks to a new project by privately held Treliver Minerals.
The company is exploring for tin at the Treliver Manor Farm, which is located in the county of Cornwall in Southwest England. As we reported in a November 22 article, the area has a tin-mining tradition stretching back more than 500 years. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the region a Mining World Heritage Site in 2006, and a Canadian company, Celeste Mining (TSXV:C), formerly Celeste Copper, plans to reopen the South Crofty mine in the town of Pool. South Crofty was the last producing tin mine in Europe when it closed in 1998.
UK-based Treliver is currently test drilling about 25 miles southwest of South Crofty, near the town of St. Columb Major. Billiton Exploration drilled 25 diamond drill holes in the area in the early 1980s and collected 10,000 soil samples, according to the International Tin Research Institute (ITRI). Breccia zones on the property have strong potential: Billiton’s best intercept from one of these areas was 17 percent tin, as per ITRI’s data.
High tin price gives mining revival a big push
“Tin is currently trading at $24,700 per metric ton — circa £16,000 per metric ton,” Treliver’s managing director, Mark Thompson, told This Is Cornwall on February 15. “We have an internal exploration target of five million to ten million tons of ore grading between 0.3 per cent and 0.4 per cent. This gives 15,000 to 40,000 tons of contained tin worth up to $1 billion.”
The company expects to have results from its current 1,000-meter drilling program in about six to eight weeks. If those results are satisfactory, there could be a mine operating on the site in a little over four years. “Best case scenario would be 18 months to drill it out, one year to prepare mine plans, environmental studies and feasibility studies, one year to permit and one year to build it — so mid-2017,” said Thompson.
Meantime, another project that we reported on in our November article moved forward this past weekend. UK-based Marine Minerals aims to collect tin from waste material that has been dumped from onshore mines off the Cornwall coast. The company is investigating the possibility of filtering the tin from the sand at sea and taking only the portion containing the metal ashore, a process that would minimize disturbance of the seabed.
Marine conducted benthic surveys over the weekend of February 15, according to a February 17 entry on the company’s website. These tests consisted of filming the seabed and collecting sand samples to get a sense of the marine life in the area. The company also started a vibrocore survey, through which it is collecting sand from under the seabed to measure the size of the tin deposits.
“We have been lucky with the weather so far this weekend which has allowed us to make good progress with the surveys,” said Marine’s commercial manager, John Sewell. “In addition to the scientists and geologists who have been conducting and overseeing the survey operations, we have also invited members of local groups so that they can see firsthand the work we are doing.”
European mining goes well beyond tin
While investors don’t typically see Europe as a mining hotspot, there are a number of other potential projects that could significantly boost the continent’s resource output in the coming years.
For example, Canadian junior mining firm Solid Resources (TSXV:SRW,OTCQX:SLDRF) is currently exploring for tin, tantalum, lithium and other rare metals at its 100-percent-owned Alberta-1 (or Doade-Presqueiras) concession in Northwestern Spain.
Solid recently released assay results from its 2012 drilling program at Alberta-1. In all, the company drilled 1,570.2 meters over 18 holes. Highlights include 11.25 meters averaging 960 parts per million tin and 143 ppm tantalum pentoxide.
The company’s program was conducted in the deposit’s northern zone to allow resources that had been marked as indicated and inferred to meet Spanish mining authorities’ standards for classification as NI 43-101 compliant measured resources. That, in turn, will let the company obtain an exploitation permit for the concession.
“This latest drill program is on time and below budget,” said Greg Pendura, Solid’s president and CEO, in a press release. “With economical average grades of 800 ppm of tin, 110 ppm of tantalum and 0.5 percent lithium, we are anticipating making our submission to the Spanish Mining Authority by the end of February, 2013. We are excited about entering the final phase of the project and working towards the implementation of a commercially viable mining operation once this permit has been obtained.”
Resurrected copper mine is nearly ready to start up
In addition, Cyprus-based EMED Mining (LSE:EMED,TSX:EMD) is currently working on restarting the past-producing Rio Tinto open-pit copper mine, also in Spain, near the city of Seville. Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO,ASX:RIO) sold the mine to Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX) in the 1990s. Freeport then spun the mine off to a workers’ cooperative, which closed it in 2000 due to low copper prices.
The company has completed an NI 43-101 compliant technical report that supports its plan to process 9 million MT of ore a year (or 37,000 MT of copper-in-concentrate) over 14 years from the site’s Cerro Colorado deposit, with the possibility of extending production through further exploration, according to a February 18, 2013, press release.
The company’s base case assumes a copper price of $3.50 a pound, which would produce pre-tax cash flows that would repay the mine’s capital costs by the end of the fourth year of operation, according to the press release. Copper is currently trading around $3.66. EMED aims to start the project later this year, with commercial production in 2014, according to a December 2012 Mining Magazine article.
Securities Disclosure: I, Chad Fraser, hold no positions in any of the companies mentioned in this article.