Production 'is due to start on tungsten mine soon'
Work to open a tungsten mine is pushing ahead in spite of a fall in the world price of the commodity, company bosses have said.
The mine at Hemerdon on the outskirts of Plymouth in Devon has one of the richest deposits of tungsten in the world.
The Australian company Wolf Minerals owns the rights and is preparing to start production in the near future.
Wolf's managing director, Humphrey Hale, said yesterday that the price fall would not derail the project.
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"It's still way ahead of our economics," he said. "It will have one of the lowest operating costs of any Western mine and will compete directly with China.
"Employees will live locally, so we won't have to fly them in and out and build temporary accommodation.
"We don't have to build an airstrip, or a 200-mile road through the tundra. There is no hurdle to us pushing forward.
"We still have to complete our funding, and that's what we are working on."
The global economic slowdown has hit the price of many metals.
Tungsten fell from a brief peak of US$500 (£311) per metric ton unit (equivalent to about 10kg of tungsten oxide) to $360 (£224). Over the past year it has been around $440 (£249), Mr Hale said.
Mr Hale refuted local rumours that Wolf would have to widen the 600-metre access road it has built to the mine, between Lee Moor Road and West Park Hill in Plympton.
A company spokesman said they would also provide a bridleway alongside the link road.
The project has attracted interest from British investors since Wolf listed on the UK AIM market in November last year. It now has more than 150 new shareholders from the UK, holding about 10% of company stock.
Wolf also has formal support from the Government. Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, said in a letter: "This is an important project ... to the local community in terms of jobs and wealth-creation and to the UK and wider EU in securing supplies of tungsten."
Tungsten is widely used in tools, lighting filaments, electrodes, electrical and electronic contacts.
Wolf expects to employ 150 to 200 people during construction of the mine, and 230 in full-scale production.
Hemerdon has the fourth-largest tungsten resource in the world and a study found that mining would be viable for the next ten years.