Metal Mining Returns to Dartmoor

June 20, 2014


While England's World Cup hopes are on life support, the countries once thriving metal industry is poised for a big rebound. According to a recent report in The Guardian, a reboot of the Drakewell tungsten mine in Dartmoor could produce 3,500 tons of the metal per year, bring 200 jobs to the area and generate revenues near 130 million pounds.


"It's good to be back," Charlie Northfield told the Guardian. Northfield was born and bred in Devon, studied mining in Cornwall but had to leave due to the lack of jobs when mines closed. "I've been away a long time. When I came out of mining school my first job was in a tin mine in Cornwall. And then I was away".


If all goes according to plan, the mine in Dartmoor could be producing roughly 3.5 percent of the global forecast demand for tungsten. Though some residents are concerned about the sudden digging going on in their neighborhood, most are glad that jobs will be returning to an area that has seen massive layoffs in several industries including farms, shipyards and fishing ports.


"I think most people are for it," parish councilor Julian Taylor told the Guardian. "People knew they couldn't stop it anyway and they've promised jobs for local people so that's positive".


Tungsten is a hard, rare metal with many uses ranging from manufacturing tools to incandescent light bulbs and can be found in mobile phones, planes and watercraft. Tungsten also has military uses including being used for drill bits and armor-piercing weapons. Tungsten is mined in Russian, Canada, Portugal and central African but the bulk (80 percent) comes from China.


Mining tungsten is not very difficult. Quartz veins found in chunks of granite is scooped up by huge mining diggers and the ore is then crushed and the tungsten concentrated and extracted. Further refinement will take place elsewhere, but for the miners in Dartmoor just having the mines in operation again is a welcome sign.