The boss of Britain’s first new metal mine in more than 40 years says he hopes the project will kick-start a ‘wider renaissance’ of mining in the UK.
Drakelands, a £140mln tungsten mine on the fringes of Dartmoor, Devon, was officially opened yesterday by Wolf Minerals (LON:WLFE) and its chief, Russell Clark.
Not since the late 60’s has the UK had a fresh project of this kind, and Clark is hopeful it can be a “catalyst” to what’s become a dormant industry.
At full capacity, Drakelands - at Wolf’s Hemerdon tungsten and tin project - is predicted to be one of the largest tungsten concentrate producers in the western world.
China dominates the world’s tungsten reserves and production, although there are smaller producers in Canada, North America, Spain and Vietnam.
Drakelands is set to churn out around 3,500 tonnes of the metal every year – roughly 20% of the western world’s tungsten needs and 3-4% of global supply.
Thursday’s opening ceremony comes only 18 months since construction began on site in March 2014.
At its peak, more than 600 people were involved and the build was completed on schedule in June 2015.
However, Drakeland’s emergence has also coincided with a price slump for tungsten, which is used in filaments for electric lamps, in magnets and TV sets and construction and mining equipment.
The price was about US$400 for a 10kg unit in November 2013, but it has since dropped to about $200 a unit.
But production from the site is still profitable at current price levels, and with the mine set to be in action for the next 10 to 15 years, prices are bound to pick up sooner or later.
Even better for Wolf and its shareholders, most significant tungsten projects elsewhere are up to two years away from commercial production and some existing production is shutting down.
The next focus for Clark and Wolf Minerals is to get Hemerdon running efficiently, ramp up production and start paying shareholder dividends.
Shares are currently priced 16p apiece.