A short history of Camborne, my hometown
The writer is not a mining expert but I am proud to be a Camborne man. So, if I directly give a view, or even you detect a suspicion of a view that you don't agree with, please email me with yours. Or any other information you may know about the future of South Crofty. I have taken an interest in mining matters for some time and in the South Crofty project especially but there has been very little information available .
What was publicised for a long time was the public sparring between the, now defunct, Rural Development Agency and Baseresult, over the future of the site. This was widely reported in the pages of the local press. The disagreement had smouldered away for several years with Baseresult making the claim that they wished to restart mining commercially while the RDA publicised their'splans to develop this strategic site for business and housing in the Camborne / Redruth area. Even the draconian powers of compulsory purchase had been threatened but withdrawn when South Crofty maaged to renew the planning permission for mining operations of the site.
If my memory serves me correctly, Baseresult, upon aquiring the site in 2001 stated....."mining will recommence "within two years" and create 200 new jobs. That prophecy was repeated several times over the coming years.
When the the world price of tin began to rise significantly, Baseresult ramped up their campaign by leafleting the whole town and going live with a new website.. Meanwhile they continued their PR with a visitor attraction offering underground tours in old workings above the level of the currently flooded main mine.
For a long time their new website appeared neglected - at least rarely updated. But inFeb 2009, this notice appeared on the homepage:
" Please be aware that underground tours have been postponed due to an acceleration of mining activity in the tour area. Tours are due to recommence in the early part of 2008, however you will need to keep checking the website nearer the time for the exact restart date. We apologise for any inconvenience caused particularly to our regular visitors and hope that we will see you all next year.
Although tours have been temporarily suspended it is an extremely exciting time at South Crofty with the eagerly awaited mine development program moving full steam ahead. Watch this space!!!"
In May 2012 I noted that underground had ceased a long time ago and were never restarted. I also noticed that the old, rather amateurish site that appeared when the PR activity started, was replaced witha smart new corporate version. This too has now disapeared and the South Crofty URL has been taken over by an unrelated company (2013).
In September 2006 Baseresult Holdings received planning consent to restart mining.
But, on October 20th 2006. The RDA announced that they intended to compulsory purchase 149 acres of land which included the 33 acre South Crofty mine site.. That couldn' have helped.....
The price of tin continued to climb and on the 2nd Nov 2007 Baseresult announced that a new company had been formed. Quote: "Western United Mines Limited is a newly formed company which will own and operate the South Crofty tin mine. Baseresult Holdings Ltd, which bought South Crofty in 2001, is the majority shareholder in Western United Mines Ltd alongside Cassiterite LP, an investment vehicle that is acting for, amongst others, Galena Asset Management Ltd., a subsidiary of global commodity trader Trafigura Beheer."
They said test drilling would begin in 2008 and, presumably depending on the results, £50M would be available for reopening the mine.
A related piece of news on 14th Nov 2007 was that development land, adjacent to the main mine site, around the South Crofty Robinsons Shaft, and which did not appear to figure in Crofty's mining plans was set to become the Heartlands project when it was awarded a £22.3 million grant by the Big Lottery Fund. That was the biggest grant BIG has ever given to a single project in England. It was one of only three projects in the UK to receive the grant under BIG’s Living Landmarks scheme . That community development was completed in 2011 and is now known as Heartlands. You can read more about it here.
Also in November Cornwall Council announced that it was withdrawing it's own development plans.
The "News" page on the original South Crofty website was always pretty useless at actually posting news. In Jan 2009, when I checked, the last posting was still dated 28th November 2007. Nothing has been said about progress of the test drilling and the likelyhood of mining commencing this year. The price of tin had steadily declined since mid 2008 ( if I understand London Metal Exchange website correctly) when the price had soared to an amazing £26,000 per ton. As that depression developed, the price fell continually throughout the latter half of that year and, of course, investment money was harder to get in thatt financial climate.
In May 2010, more investment money was found and diamond drilling started. A TV news feature at the time spoke of various rare metals being found including gold and another important metalthat was vital to the production of mobile phones. One could have been forgiven for thinking that day that was the future was no longer in not tin ! Again, it was stated that mining would begin in two years.
Later (date not noted) another TV news report said that following a land deal with Cornwall Council they could begin planning/building the new surface works for tin processing - and mining could start in........two years..
On the 26th June 2013 the following news was reported in the West Briton:
SOUTH CROFTY IN ADMINISTRATION
" Earlier this month Canadian stakeholder Celeste Mining Corporation announced it was to pull its investment because of higher than anticipated costs, concerns and "operational complexities".
This failure to fund expenditures in accordance with their contractual obligations, according to WUM’s chief executive officer Alan Shoesmith, left South Crofty with no other option than taking the “preservation step” of appointing David Tann, John Kirkpatrick and Keith Stevens of Wilkins Kennedy LLP as administrators while the firm continued seeking alternative investment."
The whole story is here.
The history of Cornish mining is one of fortunes made - and fortunes lost. Cornish deep hardrock mining has always been an expensive undertaking and it has foundered several times in the past as a result of discoveries overseas of more easily worked mines. Not only overseas though... by 1787 all the mines around the Crofty area closed when copper was discovered near surface in Anglesey.
Cornish mining during the 20th century was only ever a shadow of the huge industry that grew through the 18th century and peaked in 1860 - 1865. From that time Cornwal's tin and copper mines fell into serious decline and by 1875, thousands of Cornish folk had been forced to emigrate.
Since 1998, when Crofty closed finally much has changed and re-commencing mining there was always going to be a very expensive undertaking. The whole area has been worked for hundreds of years and the Crofty workings are connected underground with old abandoned mines strecthing from Camborne to Redruth. A significant de-watering task. Discharging polluted mine effluent into the Red River is no longer an option due to a far higher concern about environmental issues that pertained previously.An illuminating diagram of all the underground workings can be seen in the exhibition area of the new Heartlands Park exibition area. ( http://www.heartlandscornwall.com/ )
South Crofty was very deep when it did close and you have to wonder if there are still reserves to be got above that final depth (over 2000 feet I think). The last stakeholders said there was even though they pulled out.
So, maybe that finally is the end of Cornish mining....or maybe not !
Please feel free to email me with you views or corrections. Roger (email address on homepage)