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25 April 2013:

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES BEGIN FOR MARINE TIN WASTE RECOVERY PROJECT

£500,000 study will last a year, examine range of environmental and social issues

Marine Minerals Ltd - the Cornish company aiming to recover tin waste from the seabed off the coast of North Cornwall - today announced that its detailed environmental research work has begun. The half a million pound (£500,000) year-long study will look into a range of issues to help ensure the project meets its stated environmental targets.

The finding of the research will go into the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which the company will submit when it makes a licence application, expected to be next year, to undertake the tin recovery work.

Assuming a licence is granted and the project goes ahead, it will bring valuable jobs and investment to Cornwall. Marine Minerals Director and Commercial manager, John Sewell, explained that the purpose of the study is to ensure that any likely impacts of the development are assessed properly.

“Our aim is to create a project which recovers the very valuable tin, while making as small an impact as possible. We need to understand in detail these issues – and the findings of these studies now underway will help us design the best process.

“Our scientific researchers will be looking at possible impacts on leisure activities, on marine and coastal plants and animals, on the landscape and geology, as well as air and water. We have said from the beginning that this project can only proceed if the waste tin sitting on the seabed can be recovered in a way which is environmentally and socially practical – these detailed environmental studies are vital to ensure we can meet this ambition.

“We believe this will be the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of this stretch of the North Cornwall Coast,” said John Sewell.

Sand Eels, one of the common species found along the coast (photo courtesy of Rod Allday)
The company will be mapping sensitive zones on the seabed to ensure they are avoided during the tin recovery
Researchers will be examining a wide range of topics in the study (copyright MML)

27 Mar 2013: BBC News - Marine surveys for Cornish tin prove "encouraging"

The company behind plans to mine tin off the North Cornish coast have said they are making "good progress" in their research.

22 Mar 2013: Core sample studies underway

The recently collected sand samples are currently being studied at Wheal Jane by the Marine Minerals team of ecologists, geologists and metallurgists. The results of these studies will give us further information about the extent and characteristics of the tin deposits in the seabed sand. The studies will also provide valuable insight into flora, fauna and marine life in the sand which will feed into our ongoing environmental studies.

Geologist, Simon Camm, overseeing separation of tin from the sand
Cutting open the core samples
Ecologist, Kathryn Driscoll, and colleague examining the core samples
Mike Proudfoot interviewed by BBC

25 Feb 2013: Marine surveys complete

This weekend the final sand samples were taken, completing the latest phase of survey work. Below is some film of the vibrocore sampling and some other images from last week's activity..

kelp on mixed sand and boulder seabed
John Sewell with Capt Simon Thomas of St Agnes Quay Fishermen's Association
John Sewell being interviewed by the BBC
Vibrocore recovery CM

19 Feb 2013: Western Morning News - Tin scheme could pioneer technology by Liz Parks

Survey work being carried out this week off the North Cornwall coast will determine whether a scheme to extract underwater tin deposits is economically viable.... ...If the project does go ahead, it would seek to extract the tin in an environmentally sensitive way which could see new technology developed in Cornwall exported to other mineral-extraction schemes around the world.

17 Feb 2013: Next Stage of Marine Surveys for Tin Recovery Project Underway

The next stage of marine survey work this weekend.

On Friday, benthic surveys, which involve filming the seabed and collecting sand samples to examine the flora, fauna and marine life in the sand, were begun, and will continue while the weather holds. The company is using a high-resolution camera that will record the life living in the top layer of sand. All of the above information will be the subject of several months laboratory work.

Also, Saturday saw the start of the vibrocore survey which is being carried out by the specialist 24 metre survey vessel, “MV Flatholm” which is owned and operated by Cornish company Coastline Surveys Ltd. This work involves collecting core samples of sand from beneath the seabed, which will primarily be used to assess more precisely the extent and characteristics of the tin deposits in the seabed sand. The boat started in Perran Bay on Saturday and is currently working its way down the coast to St Ives Bay where, depending on weather, it anticipates completing the marine surveys in the next few days.

Talking about the survey work, John Sewell, Commercial Manager for Marine Minerals Ltd, said:

“We have been lucky with the weather so far this weekend which has allowed us to make good progress with the surveys. In addition to the scientists and geologists who have been conducting and overseeing the survey operations, we have also invited members from local groups so that they can see first hand the work we are doing. We are acutely aware of a number of sensitive issues that need to be considered and so are pleased that we were joined today by the Chairman of Hayle Harbour Advisory Committee, John Bennett and Hayle Town Councillor, Harry Blakeley. Tomorrow a representative from the St. Agnes Quay Fishermen’s Association will also be joining us on the boat.”

14 Feb 2013: Western Morning News - Survey set to start on tin recovery project off Cornish coast

Survey work which could pave the way to extract tin from the seabed off the Cornish coast is expected to start this weekend. Marine Minerals Ltd (MML) believes there are millions of pounds worth of tin reserves off the north coast which could be commercially viable. It wants to filter, rather than dredge, the metal deposits which have been washed out from previous mining efforts.

13 Feb 2012: Readers of the Falmouth Packet vote in favour of Tin Recovery Project, 78% to 22%

The results of a recent online poll carried out by the Falmouth based newspaper have revealed a growing groundswell of support for Marine Mineral's tin recovery project. According to the newspaper, the survey, which ran for a week and closed today, attracted a total of more than 160 voters, with 78% of these voting in support of the proposed project.

February 12, 2013: Tin Recovery Project Announces Next Stage of Marine Survey Work to Start this Weekend

It is anticipated that this weekend (16/17th Feb) will see the start of the next stage of marine survey work to be carried out by Marine Minerals Ltd - the Cornish company investigating opportunities for the recovery of waste tin from the seabed in an environmentally practical way.

The next step in the project is to undertake further preliminary marine survey work along the coast between St Ives and Perranporth, where deposits of waste tin are located in the seabed sand. This is limited research work licensed by the government’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

The survey work will be carried out by the specialist 24m survey vessel MV Flatholm, which is operated by Falmouth based hydrographic survey company Coastline Surveys Ltd. (Full specifications of “Flatholm” can be found here http://www.coastlinesurveys.co.uk/php/coastline-surveys-vessels.php)

Marine Minerals will be investigating a range of topics, including:

• Assessing more precisely the location and quality of the tin and other mineral deposits, in the sandy seabed

• Clarifying the underlying geology

• Samples will be used by marine scientists and geologists to better inform the company of the make-up of the seabed

Exact timing of the survey work is heavily reliant on the weather, but we anticipate it starting this weekend and being completed over the coming two weeks.

Talking about the project, John Sewell, Commercial Manager for Marine Minerals Ltd, said:

“Our starting point with the tin recovery project is that there are tens of millions of pounds worth of Cornish tin, already mined over the last few centuries and washed out to sea, sitting in sand off the North Cornish Coast between St Ives and Perranporth. The value in that tin could be of great benefit to the Cornish economy: the challenge is, can the tin be recovered in a way that is environmentally and socially, as well as commercially viable? We obviously believe that the answer is yes, which is why we are pursuing the project.

“We are acutely aware of a number of sensitive issues that need to be considered, which is why we have invited Surfers Against Sewage to join us during the marine survey work so they can see first hand the studies we are undertaking.

“We are committed to high levels of environmental performance and have completely rejected the use of traditional dredging methods to bring up the tin-bearing sand.”

The methods the company is investigating – sifting and filtering the sand at sea and returning around 95% of it immediately back into the seabed excavation that it came from – will be far more precise and economic than dredging. The company’s research so far suggests that when compared to natural forces such as tides, currents and storm waves, this method of working will have insignificant effects on the seabed and the local ecology. The company is carefully investigating many issues in detail via a year-long environmental study. Findings will be made public and form part of the company’s application to the MMO for a full operating licence. These plans will themselves be subject to formal, statutory public consultation, managed by the MMO, which it is anticipated will take place in 2014.

The latest information on project progress will be posted on the Marine Minerals website, www.marine-minerals.com and people can also contact the company by emailing info@marine-minerals.com

6 Feb 2013: Update Re. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and licence application timings

• EIA will allow us to investigate the potential issues and where necessary identify appropriate mitigation measures in detail prior to applying for a licence and going into production

• We have not submitted our production licence application: when we submit one (at the earliest end of this year) there will be opportunity for formal public consultation on the licence application via the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) who would be the consenting authority for the marine elements of the project

• In the meantime, we are continuing to consult widely as part of the EIA process

At the end of last year Marine Minerals Ltd (MML) submitted its Scoping Review to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). The purpose of a scoping review is to identify all the elements, which we need to address in our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), such as coastal processes, ecological and socio-economic considerations.

In addition to statutory consultees such as Natural England, Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency, we have already consulted with a range of other organisations, which include the Cornwall Seal Group, Surfers against Sewage and Save Our Sands (Hayle). We believe we have been thorough in ensuring that all the topics which people might have concerns about have been identified. These concerns will be addressed by the EIA and presented in the Environmental Statement which will be submitted as part of our licence application later this year/early next year.

No production work can be undertaken until a full project application, including an Environmental Statement setting out the environmental impacts of the proposals and our commitment to appropriate mitigation, has been submitted to the MMO. All of this documentation will be open to public comment and scrutiny, and we will not be able to take the project forward until the MMO approve our proposed methods and issue a licence. We do not anticipate being able to go into production until 2015 at the earliest.

We have made clear that the project will only proceed if the tin can be recovered from the sand body in a way, which is environmentally and socially acceptable, as well as financially viable. We have, for this reason, ruled out completely traditional dredging because of the long-term disturbance and other problems it can cause. Instead, we are investigating the use of a single vessel which could filter the tin from the sand in situ, and return the non tin-bearing sand immediately back to the seabed. This will greatly reduce any potentially negative impacts and minimise the operational footprint of the operation on the seabed.

Should this method of tin extraction move to full production, it would bring significant numbers of jobs and investment to Cornwall, both at sea and on land. Understanding the social, environmental and economic impacts of the tin recovery project is vital to assessing whether such a project is both viable and environmentally acceptable.

Only once the EIA is complete will a formal licence application be made and the MMO and other statutory bodies will put this out to public consultation. The timing of the consultation process is dependent on feedback from the regulators: at the earliest it could be the end of 2013, but is more likely to be next year.

Comments from Surfers against Sewage resulted in the following two articles in the West Briton and The Telegraph online. Below the articles are our responses to the concerns raised

19 Nov 2012: West Briton - Eco fears over tin harvesting on seabed between St Ives and St Agnes

Multi-million pound proposals to harvest tin deposits from the seabed could have serious consequences for the environment and tourism, it has been claimed. But the plans to reclaim marine deposits of the metal between St Ives and St Agnes could create up to 100 jobs and spark major investment in the region. Cornish company Marine Minerals has been given permission by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to investigate the possibility of recovering the tin deposited on the seabed as a result of mining in an environmentally, socially and economically viable way.

19 Nov 2012: TheTelegraph.co.uk - New tin mines in Cornwall threaten surfers' paradise

Cornish company Marine Minerals wants to dig up sand from around the north coast of Cornwall to extract valuable tin. The tin has been washed out from old mines around the coast and is now in high demand for manufacturing in the Far East to make electronic goods like mobile phones.

Response from Marine Minerals on concerns raised in West Briton and The Telegraph articles:

1. Impact of our project on surfing breaks

Our project will only focus on those specific areas of sand where tin deposits are aggregated near the surface. Marine Minerals has ruled out the use of traditional dredging, and instead is developing a filtering in-situ method for separating the tin-bearing sand from the mainly shell sand, the result being that no more than 5% of the sand in these specific locations will be taken to the shore; the remaining 95% being placed immediately back into the seabed.

Given the miniscule amount of sand we will be removing - some 0.1% overall of the amount in the area, spread over several years - and the tiny scale of our activities compared to the impact of wave action, tides and storms, we anticipate there will be no impact on local breaks, which are largely dependent on the underlying rock reefs.

We do however take SAS's concerns, and those of others interested in sand cell movement, very seriously. This is an issue that we will examine carefully as part of our environmental assessment programme, which has just started and is due to run for up to a year.

2. "Toxic" materials in the sand being disturbed by our working

We have no evidence or reason to believe there is any toxic material that would be released by our working the areas of sand where tin deposits are near the surface, not least because of the very localised and careful recovery methods we are designing. Again, we recognise concerns around this topic, and it is an issue we are studying closely during our exploration and laboratory work.

We have met with Surfers against Sewage, agreed to share research data with them, and invited them onto our research boat to see what we are doing. We will continue to liaise with them as the project develops.

15 Nov 2012: The Cornishman - Plan unveiled to harvest tin from seabed

Multi-million pound proposals to harvest tin deposits from the seabed off Hayle have been unveiled. The plans, which would see marine deposits of the metal reclaimed between St Ives and St Agnes, could create up to 100 jobs and kick-start major investment in the region. While the proposals are at a very early stage, Hayle harbour could be used for processing the tin which has been deposited on the seabed as a result of mining.

02 Nov 2012: Pirate FM - Search for Tin at Sea?

Pirate FM has learnt there could be a new gold rush in Cornwall - for tin. A company has told us about plans to sift for underwater deposits off the north coast. Marine Minerals says it would create up to a hundred new jobs. It wants to search for waste, left over from the Duchy's historic mining industry.

01 Nov 2012: Western Morning News Study of underwater tin deposits could create jobs

A Cornish company is to begin an investigation of underwater tin deposits to see if it is economically and environmentally viable to extract the mineral, writes WMN Business Editor Liz Parks.