Wolf Minerals and the Drakelands tungsten mine
A £130million tungsten mine in the UK has been given the keys to the future, following the extension of planning consent and permission to increase production.
The Drakelands Mine project, owned by Wolf Minerals Limited, is now permitted to operate on-site crushing plant seven days a week as well as an increased planning permission until 2036 from its original expiration in 2021.
The Drakelands Mine
Construction of the Drakelands Mine began on site in March 2014 and was completed on schedule in June 2015, with deliveries to customers commencing in September 2015.
The Drakelands Mine is rated by the British Geological Survey as the world's fourth largest tungsten resource and it provides a secure supply of tungsten for a global customer base. A tin concentrate is also produced, generating additional revenue for Wolf.
Located near the village of Hemerdon in the United Kingdom, the Drakelands Mine is a world-class tungsten and tin mine, one of only two mines outside of China with production capacity greater than 3,000tpa tungsten concentrate.
The extraction of tungsten at Drakelands takes place through open pit mining, with the pit measuring 850m long by 450m wide and ultimately extending to a depth of 260 metres. The sides of the pit will be cut in benches to allow for safe working as the mine gets deeper.
Ore removed from the pit is stockpiled according to its mineralogical characteristics and grade in preparation for use in the processing plant.
Waste rock from the open pit is loaded by excavators onto dump trucks and driven on internal haul roads to the mine waste facility (MWF). The material being deposited in the waste facility is classified as non-hazardous.
The MWF is designed to be inherently stable. Its construction consists of a rockfill embankment progressively constructed from run-of-mine waste. Finer residues (tailings) are contained within this embankment and allowed to settle, with the excess water pumped back to the processing plant for recycling.
The Drakelands processing plant produces tungsten and tin concentrates. Ore is fed into the processing plant where it is crushed and ground to liberate the minerals from the rock, and then separated and upgraded using various gravity, heavy media, flotation and magnetic processes.
The processing plant will produce approximately 5,000t tungsten concentrate and 1,000t tin concentrate each year – equivalent to 1 truck a day exported to customers in Europe, USA and Asia.
Way of the Wolf
Wolf Minerals is an ASX (WLF) and AIM (WLFE) listed specialty metals producer from its operations at Drakelands, a major global tungsten mine in the United Kingdom's Southwest.
The company is led by an experienced management team of British and Australian mining professionals and more than 200 people are permanently employed on site.
Wolf is committed to displaying leadership in health, safety and sustainable development and is working proactively to manage its impact on the environment.
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British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.