Hemerdon Mine - History - 1960-2006

1960-2006

However in the mid-1960s work on the prospect was recommenced by British Tungsten Ltd, owned by Canadian entrepreneur W.A.Richardson. In 1969 a planning application for opencast working of tin, tungsten and china clay was submitted, but it was withdrawn before a decision could be made. Further work commencing in 1970 by British Tungsten Ltd increased the resource to 5.6 million tonnes of ore.

The leases were transferred to Hemerdon Mining and Smelting Ltd in 1976. They initiated a drilling program shortly before they entered a joint venture to develop the project with international mining firm AMAX in 1977. An extensive exploration programme costing in excess of $10 million was completed between 1978 and 1980. By the end of 1978, deeper drilling enlarged the resource size to 20 million tonnes of ore. In 1979 this was expanded to 45 million tonnes. At the end of the exploration programme in 1980, over 14,000 metres (46,000 ft) of diamond drilling had been undertaken, outlining a resource of 0.17% tungsten trioxide and 0.025% tin over 49.6 million tonnes.

Bulk sampling of the deposit using an underground drift for ore, and a pilot HMS and Gravity plant for processing, was undertaken in 1980. On average recoveries of around 65% were made, although in excess of 70% was achieved. The final revision of the mining feasibility study concluded in 1982 that a within a global resource of 73 million tonnes of ore, at grades of 0.143% tungsten trioxide and 0.026% tin, there was an in pit reserve of 38 million tonnes, at grades of 0.183% tungsten trioxide and 0.029% tin.

The venture was joined by Billiton Minerals Ltd, providing further finance and expertise, and forming a consortium that planned to commence production in 1986. The initial planning application was made in 1981, but a public enquiry and ‘calling in’ of the application by the Secretary of State resulting in an initial refusing of the application in 1984. This resulted in Billiton Minerals Ltd pulling out of the consortium. Hemerdon Mining and Smelting Ltd also sold their 50% stake in the project to AMAX. After making a revised application, permission was finally obtained in 1986. By then a collapse in both the tin and tungsten prices had damaged the economic feasibility of making an investment in opening the mine. Its tungsten assets were passed onto to a newly formed holding company; Canada Tungsten Ltd, in 1986.

Canada Tungsten implemented the planning permission that was obtained in 1986, and kept the project in its portfolio of prospects for many years. Before AMAX was sold to Phelps Dodge, it gradually transferred Canada Tungsten into the ownership of Aur Resources. In 1997, a new company, North American Tungsten plc, purchased all the tungsten assets from Aur Resources, and was listed with the aim of reopening the Cantung mine, and developing the Hemerdon and Mactung prospects.

However during a review of peripheral assets in 1999, it decided that with the depressed prices of tungsten, the Hemerdon prospect was not central to its future. With upkeep costs of in excess of C$150,000 per annum, almost a third of the company’s annual costs, attempts were made with the mineral rights holders to reduce fees. The negotiations were unsuccessful and therefore during 2000, two of the three mineral rights were surrendered. To further reduce costs, it disposed the remaining assets of the Hemerdon prospect in 2003.

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