Mining giant Minco has reported positive results from its exploration drilling in the North East as it bores down to seabed levels in search for lucrative ore deposits, revealing it is to extend the project.
The Canadian company has been carrying out test drilling at three principal sites, in Cumbria, County Durham and Northumberland, which fall within the North Pennine Orefield, an area covering approximately 350 square miles, having already ploughed almost £1m into the project.
Efforts are centred on Nenthead in Cumbria and Allenheads in Northumberland as part of the £640,000 exploration programme, and it is believed up to one million tonnes of zinc could be extracted a year.
Mining on the North Pennine Orefield dates back to Roman times, but ceased prior to the Second World War, yet using new techniques Minco is reaching minerals far beneath the old historical underground mine workings, to what they believe to be a huge quantity of undiscovered deposits of world-class proportions.
John Kearney, chairman and chief executive of the Aim-listed company, has now told shareholders Minco was “very encouraged” by results from its first eight North Pennine boreholes, and that it is now stepping up exploration.
Kearney said: “We are very encouraged by the results of Minco’s first eight holes in this large area which has a rich mining history.
“We believe these results confirm our initial opinion of the potential of the Northern Pennine Orefield for the discovery of new mineralization both extending laterally around and at depth below historic workings.
“A new third phase of drilling is planned for the next year, with the planned addition of a second drill machine to further explore this exciting project for Minco.”
The project was initially welcomed by Professor Stan Higgins of Teesside-based Nepic – the North East of England Process Industry Cluster – who agreed with Minco that at least 500 jobs could be created if a mine is developed.
Professor Higgins welcomed initial results showing the orefield to be plentiful, but warned that the project is still at a very early stage and, despite initial results showing the orefield to be plentiful, it may not actually result in a mining operation.
A working zinc mine could create a host of jobs and work through the supply chain formed by a development, mainly for the North East ports and logistics firms who will be required to transport the minerals to suitable refineries, as none exist in the region.
He said: “The North East has lots of old minerals and I’m sure this prospecting activity will go on.
“However, I have lived in other regions where high expectations have come out of similar programmes, but when commodity prices change they can get less or more viable. Often extraction of minerals is very dependent on commodity pricing and these things fluctuate rapidly. As for other jobs that would be created in a supply chain, we wouldn’t have a refinery capable of processing the minerals in this region, so it would be transport and logistics firms who would most benefit.”