Monday, 14 February 2011

Cornwall's Sunrise Industry?

Yet again, mining in Cornwall seems poised for a return. This time it's thanks to the global demand for the metal indium. Large deposits of the rare element, which is used in the liquid crystal displays on televisions, laptops, smart phones and Apple's iPad, have been found at the South Crofty mine, between Camborne and Redruth.

Indium can be plated onto metal and evaporated onto glass. It forms a mirror as good as that made with silver, but with more resistance to atmospheric corrosion.

The owners of South Crofty, the last tin mine to operate in Britain, are confident that if tests prove correct they'll be able to extract millions of pounds-worth of indium. Hopes are high that around the local area hundreds of jobs could be created; some even predict a modern-day gold rush.

South Crofty closed in 1998 after the price of tin collapsed. However, in 2006 it was bought by a group of investors, hopeful that the recovery in global commodity prices would see a return to profitable mining.

A recent delay to investment funding caused sixteen of the sixty-odd workforce to be laid off, but now the owner, Western United Mines, hopes to employ up to four hundred people within the next two years. There's no other UK producer of indium, and few sources worldwide. Each kilo is worth about £500 and Western estimates South Crofty will yield between 250,000 to 400,000 tons per year initially.

The Camborne - Redruth district is one of Cornwall's poorest, with high unemployment and few prospects. Fingers and toes crossed that this latest development at South Crofty will help improve the local economy and with it, the quality of peoples' lives.

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