Wolf Minerals will start producing tungsten and tin next year when it opens the UK's first metal mine in over 40 years. As Hayley Platt reports it's one of several European miners looking to challenge China and cash in on rising metal prices.
It's not even open yet. But Drakelands mine in Hemerdon near England's South coast is already injecting millions of pounds into the economy, buying much of its equipment locally. Mining was thought long dead in Britain. It's not, thanks to Australian-based firm, Wolf Minerals. It's investing £130 million pounds in a tungsten and tin mine. And employing 200 people to help run the UK's first new metals mine in over 40 years. Russell Clark is the company's MD. SOUNDBITE: Russell Clark, Managing Director, Wolf Metals, saying (English): "Lots of people thought that you couldn't create a new mine in England but the infrastructure is here. We don't have to create an airport to work here. We've got road access, we've got grid power. There are a lot of contributory factors that make this mine profitable." This is what all the fuss is about. The black veins running through this rock are tungsten - and worth a small fortune. It's used to make everything from precision tools to the filament in light bulbs. Once a thriving industry until large stockpiles were sold off and the price dropped dramatically, killing Britain's metal mining industry dead. Today China's by far the largest consumer of the rare metal. It's also the largest supplier and holds over 50 percent of known reserves. But it's been accused of controlling the market by imposing strict export restrictions on tungsten and other rare earth metals. That's made prices soar. Now firms like Wolf Minerals are entering the market. It expects to produce 3,500 tonnes of tungsten concentrate annually - or 3.5% of global demand. Just a drop in the ocean says Claire Hack from trade publication Metal Bulletin, but is likely to attract others. SOUNDBITE: Claire Hack, Metal Bulletin, saying (English): "A lot of western buyers like to have an alternative to China, at least in the recent past there were such high taxes and restrictions on material coming out of that country. So having a secure stable supply coming from a developed Western economy was quite important and continues to be so." Local residents Violet and David Pummel have mixed feelings about the mine. SOUNDBITE: David Pummell, Hemerdon resident, saying (English): "I can't see it going very long. Three to four years at the outside." SOUNDBITE: Violet Pummell, Hemerdon resident, saying (English): "I think this is good and I think people will come to realise when they've got used to the idea." Wolf Metals expect to mine in Devon for at least 10 years, if not longer. SOUNDBITE: Russell Clark, Wolf Metals, Managing Director, saying (English): "The global economy is growing, it needs tungsten for everything made. The price is higher than it's been for a long time. The time is right for this mine." Drakelands will officially open by mid 2015. And it may well transform the fortunes of this quiet little town.