Andy Greenwood | Western Morning News
A company looking to extract millions of pounds worth of tin from the seabed off the Cornish coast has announced it is to invest £500,000 in a year-long environmental study.
Marine Minerals Limited has identified tin deposits washed out from historic mines on the coast between St Ives and Perranporth.
It is investigating whether recovering the metal is commercially viable and in February carried out seabed survey work.
The firm has now announced that it has started detailed research work. The results will contribute to a required Environmental Impact Assessment to accompany its licence application, which is expected next year.
Marine Minerals director and commercial manager John Sewell said:
“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.”
The project could bring much-needed jobs and investment to Cornwall. It has, however, provoked controversy with fears it could impact on surfing beaches and the wider tourism economy.
It has now emerged that Marine Minerals failed to seek permission from Cornwall Council for the work carried out two months ago.
A spokesman for the council said:
“Marine Minerals Limited originally contacted the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) with regard to its proposal to carry out test sampling at St Ives Bay.
“Unfortunately the company was not then advised to apply to the council as the relevant authority for a licence to carry out these works. Although this was a breach of the Coast Protection Act, the council has decided that a prosecution would not be appropriate in these circumstances.”
Marine Minerals said it had been in discussions with the council for over a year “and at no point was the need for any additional licence raised with us”. The spokesman added: “If it is shown that we require an additional licence to extract further samples, then of course we shall comply.”