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Eco fears over tin harvesting on seabed between St Ives and St Agnes

By West Briton  |  Posted: November 19, 2012

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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.

The rising price of tin could see millions of pounds worth of the metal brought ashore.

But Surfers Against Sewage's (SAS) campaign director Andy Cummins said it had concerns about the effect the project could have on "a very valuable" stretch of coastline.

"It can have negative consequences for the beach so you can rob the beach of its golden sand and for surfers the waves rely on the sand bank to produce quality waves," he said.

Mr Cummins said removing the sand could damage these banks, which in turn may have a detrimental affect on the economy.

"Surfing is worth £64 million to the Cornish economy and provides 1,600 year-round jobs so ... we need to protect what we have got," he said.

Mr Cummins was also concerned that moving the sediment on the seabed could release pathogens and other pollutants trapped in the sand from years of sewage discharges.

Marine tin deposits have been mined off the Cornwall coast, most recently in the 1980s, but Marine Minerals believes techniques used then, such as dredging, are not environmentally acceptable.

It is looking into alternatives including a method of filtering the sand at sea, with only the portion containing tin – less than 5 per cent – being taken ashore.

The company is also considering how and where the sand can be brought ashore for processing and the possibility of using Hayle Harbour, which could see major investment in the port.

Work to start extracting about 40 core sand samples is due to start in the coming months.

A spokesman for Marine Minerals said: "This is potentially a very valuable resource and potentially very valuable for Cornwall.

"It can only go ahead if it can be recovered in an environmentally satisfactory way."

A formal environmental impact assessment will be submitted to the MMO.

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  November 21 2012, 9:02AM

    Doesn't the precautionary principle mean that any form of pollution will be dealt with before it even happens? "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

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  • Cknocker  |  November 20 2012, 4:49PM

    Unfortunately morals never come into it, which is why as of 1998 it is the mining companies legal obligation to manage the situation. What happened at Wheal Jane is this: - After closure the NRA took over responsibility for treatment of the mine water, this was managed by pumping the water from the shaft into the Clemows Tailings Dam, where the water settled and clean water decanted off the top into the river. Prior to closure the water drained from the County Adit into the Carnon River, following settling underground, as part of the closure plan the county adit was sealed with a concrete plug - by the NRA. In November 1991 the NRAs pumps failed, which is the point at which the decision that led to the incident happened - The NRA took the decision that there was enough space in the workings above the pump level to allow the water level to rise and fix the pumps in the New Year. However the November and December were extremely wet, this led to the water level rebounding quicker than envisaged, with the pressure surpassing the design head of the plug - this resulted in the plug bursting and the stored water above adit level entering the Carnon River. Anyway all of that has little to do with this issue, my question is this: - why oppose something that is currently unknown - lets see the proposed extraction method, the sediment content analysis and the treatment method first.

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  • shagrats  |  November 20 2012, 2:38PM

    Knockers your right of course on the detail of what mine and what company, but the I'm sure its the mining companies moral duty to ensure that when you let a mine flood / or get involved in a mining practice that you should at least mitigate the bad things that will happen during and after the mine has finished. Unfourtunately as we have seen with what happened in the Fal, companies are only to willing to just P off and leave it to someone else to clean up, Which is due to lapse / weak regulations forcing companies to clean up what they leave. I cant see how it would be the NRA's fault if I just tipped thousands of gallons of oxides into the river. Everyone knows this is what happens when you leave a mine.

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  • Cknocker  |  November 20 2012, 12:44PM

    Shagrats: - 1. Rio Tinto never shut down either Wheal Jane or South Crofty - that was Carnon Consolidated and South Crofty plc respectively. 2. South Crofty does not feed into the River Fal, that is Wheal Jane. 3. The cause of the Wheal Jane Pollution Event was actually a failure by The National River Authority - now the Environment Agency - although I will agree that it was wrong that they should have been responsible in the first place - but note the law as changed since then. 4. There was no pollution to any river after the closure of South Crofty.

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  • shagrats  |  November 20 2012, 12:31PM

    If you remember when Rio Tinto, just F off and let south Crofty Flood a few years back. The oxygen rich water could finialy bind on to the sulphides and oxidise causing that very toxic looking red tide that ran down the Fal. It cleared up after they stuck in a reed bed but I remeber eating oysters from the Fal and they looked like fried eggs, just full of whatever minerals had washed out of the mine. It was just after this I developed super powers.

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  November 20 2012, 10:23AM

    Surely if people were truly worried about what was in the seabed, they wouldn't have even considered off shore wind and the remobilization of sediment caused by that? Surely if people were worried about environmental damage in other countries there would have been a total boycott of fuel, coca cola and chocolate by now? Personally, I think that this is all a load of hypocritical posturing by the few who aren't affected either way. Let's see what the plan is, and then lets deal with it responsibly and without that jerking knee ailment so many TIC posters seem to have developed...

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 20 2012, 8:35AM

    Exactly Shagrats, the nasty stuff will be things like Arsenic, if they don't process it and remove it as they collect the deposits the damage that will be done to the coastline will be massive and will make the beaches so poor they will not be able to have visitors or locals on them, definitely wouldn't eat the fish and shellfish. mrcrashhappy, Thanks, never thought of myself as an elitist, and think i made it clear what the UN is, yet if they could be re-worked would be more useful as something entirely different on the global stage but we will all still argue amongst ourselves about everything from flowers on a roundabout to which political party is in power and nothing will be done.

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  • shagrats  |  November 20 2012, 7:30AM

    I would be interested in seeing how the sulphides and nasty stuff with these mineral deposits is dealt with, or has nature allready sived these out when they were deposited offshore. A full enviromental geochemical analysis of the deposist must be made and published, with % of nasty sulphides and heavy minerals and other trace elements made. If they are planning to only take the tin then they are planning to break the deposit up into a very fine concentrate. The rest of the deposit will be dumped to re-deposit itself where the currents will take it. Rather like a very smelly fart in a Pub bar.

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  • mrcrashhappy  |  November 20 2012, 2:19AM

    Anyone who wishes the UN could dominate individual countries is showing himself for the misanthropic, self-righteous elitist he is. Global government means a global prison where everyone has broken a law and only need be noticed to lose their freedom altogether.

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 19 2012, 10:52PM

    Going back to the mining thing a moment though, I contacted all the MP's and some Councillors in Cornwall to ask about their stance on mining for gas by fracking and all but one that replied were more concerned with 'energy security' than the damage the process has to the environment we live in. If that is in an area that allegedly has no gas under its feet in any of the bedrock then it shows a poor state of affairs in this country.

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