The renaissance of mining in South-West England continues apace, as Cornish Lithium, Strategic Minerals and Tungsten West all start to deliver
Cornish Lithium went out to the crowdfunding market this week with a view to raising around £1.5mln to allow it to continue with its efforts to explore for, mine and process – at least on a trial basis – lithium brines in Cornwall.
In the end it came away with upwards of £5mln, and even more wind in its sails than it had before.
It helps of course that this is a company that was carefully conceived and planned by industry professionals with long years of experience, in failure, as well as success.
To put it another way, these guys know what they’re doing, and they’re getting it done.
But there’s another, bigger context at work here too.
One of the more salutary aspects of the recent Cornish Lithium offering to market was that it was able to boast the backing of government, not just in words, but in the form of hard cash otherwise known as a grant.
Central government likes Cornish Lithium because it could end up spearheading a new British industry at a time when Brexit and the coronavirus are creating uncertainty all over the place. Local government likes it because it is going to create jobs in a district that has in recent decades been a long way from any major commercial hub. And local people like it because they are being allowed a piece of the action through Cornish Lithium’s method of raising capital – crowdfunding.
But behind all that is the new paradigm that’s been created globally in the past few years, one of trade barriers and trading blocks, self-sufficiency and suspicion of reliance on long and overly complex supply chains.
Why mine tin in Cornwall when you can get it more cheaply in Indonesia. In the ideal world of the globalists, the answer to that question would be: no reason at all. But in the real world, where countries are beginning to use access and control of certain commodities to gain geopolitical leverage, the answer is obvious: Indonesia could cut us off tomorrow.
So, not only is the UK government keen to stimulate the new lithium prospectors and producers in Cornwall, in order to give it some measure of comfort in regard to the supply of what could be the key mineral of the twenty-first century, it’s also keen to stimulate the production of other metals there too. Thus Cornish Metals (CVE:CUSN) continues to make great strides at South Crofty, Strategic Minerals (LON:SML) is moving ahead with its Redmoor tin and tungsten project, and across the border in Devon, the resuscitated Hemerdon project is being given new life by Tungsten West.
More explorers and entrepreneurs are sniffing around too, and seasoned geologists are now dusting off old maps and digging up old data from years gone by, as Cornish Lithium’s founder Jeremy Wrathall did, to see if new theories might be brought to bear on old knowledge.
After all, Cornwall was once, without exaggeration, the mining capital of the world, and one reason why the English-speaking world remains dominant in the mining sector to this day is that in the nineteenth expertise was exported around the British empire and the USA from Cornwall.
That that brain drain may be about to go into reverse, at least to some modest degree, must look like poetry in motion to a British government that’s increasingly desperate for good news of any kind whatsoever.
It’s good news for the UK investment community too, which has always liked a home grown story, but which until this Cornish revival has been starved of any real choice. And it’s good news for Cornwall, which will likely get a significant boost to its economy at a time when dearth and hardship elsewhere looks increasingly likely.