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  • Writer's pictureMark Watson-Mitchell

Cornish Metals - dewatering leads to production

 

Key facts

 

 CORNISH METALS - (LON & TSX-V: CUSN)

Market capitalisation

£50.5m

Price

9.35p

52-week high/low

16p / 8.90p

Analyst Valuation per share

32p - 48p

 

Cornish Metals is a mineral exploration and development company, which holds extensive mineral rights in an underexplored region in the UK, is mainly focused on its South Crofty tin project in Cornwall.


As a group its flagship projects are the South Crofty tin project and the United Downs copper-tin project.


The United Downs copper-tin project area is located within the boundaries of, or adjacent to, four former copper, tin and zinc producing mines.


The company has recently made a new discovery at United Downs, which is a near surface, high-grade copper-tin discovery, some 5 miles to the east of South Crofty.

In addition, the company holds 15,000 hectares in exploration licenses.


It also maintains an interest in the Nickel King project, an exploration property which is prospective for nickel in the Northwest Territories in Canada, and the Sleitat project, an exploration property which is prospective for tin and tungsten in Alaska.


The company also holds a royalty on two non-producing tungsten assets located in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, Canada.


Additionally, it owns interests in exploration properties prospective for tin in Alaska and nickel in the Northwest Territories, Canada.


Cornish Metals holds a free carried interest and royalty on lithium projects in Cornwall through Cornish Lithium.


The South Crofty Story


Cornish Metals is principally centred upon developing the considerable opportunities in developing the South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall.


Tin mining in that region can be traced back to 2,300 B.C.


Large-scale production first started at South Crofty in the mid-1600s, although the first documented production dated in 1592.


The mine was in operation intermittently from then until its closure in 1998, brought about by the prolonged period of depressed tin prices.


It has been identified that historical production between 1700 to 1998 totalled over 450,000 tonnes of tin from the Central Mining District of Cornwall, in which South Crofty is situated.


The mine went into serious decline after 1985 and eventually closed in 1998.


Several companies attempted to revive the mine between 2001 and 2013.


Significant advances were made, primarily the agreement to secure a site for future mill construction, and the grant of a mining permit which is valid until 2071, subject to certain planning conditions being met.


Unfortunately, the timing of the mine permit grant in 2013 coincided with very poor market conditions in the resource sector and the assets were put into administration in 2013.


The mine has seen production from near-surface copper mineralisation and deeper tin-only mineralisation.


The focus has been to evaluate the deeper tin-only mineralisation that occurs primarily from a depth of 400m below surface.


The project was acquired from Administration by Cornish Metals in 2016.


In 2017 the company completed a Preliminary Economic Assessment that demonstrated the economic viability of re-opening the mine.


The company gained its AIM listing in 2021 and secured a ‘cornerstone investment’ from Vision Blue Resources a year later.


Today the South Crofty tin project is a strategic asset for the long term - with planning permission to construct a new processing plant.


Mineral Resource Estimate


In 2023 the company received an updated Mineral Resource Estimate that increased its expected tonnes by 39% and contained tin by 32% in the Indicated category for its Lower Mine.


It is considered that there is the potential for the identification of further resource growth at South Crofty, while also evaluating its nearby Wide Formation structure interest over a 1.6km strike.


Preliminary Economic Assessment


The company is due to publish a Preliminary Economic Assessment within the next three months, with a Feasibility Study in this Summer.


Today the group is focused on advancing the South Crofty high-grade, underground tin Project through to a construction decision, as well as exploring its additional mineral rights, all located in Cornwall.


The South Crofty project is fully permitted, having underground permission through a mining licence valid until 2071, as well as planning permission to construct a new process plant and with a permit from the Environment Agency to dewater the mine.

Dewatering

Dewatering is an essential process of removing water from a location - virtually every mine site needs to account for dewatering at some point in time.

Most mine operations are susceptible to flooding - some more than others.


The geographic location and climate of the area play a major factor in dewatering needs.


Heavy rainfall, water tables, nearby rivers and lakes can lead to catastrophic flooding that shuts down operations with costly results. 


As for underground mines, flooding is usually controlled because these types of mines are not directly influenced by surface waters, so the real concern is how to deal with underground water.


Usually, to keep flooding under control in underground mines, users need to consider:


  • Removing potential water hazards

  • Filling surfaces that might collapse during or after the flooding process

  • Installing water diversion systems

  • Installing, at both the surface and underground, a system to monitor hydrogeological and geotechnical aspects, and

  • Projecting hydrological and hydrogeochemical development of mine waters

When a mine extends below the water table, due to gravity, the groundwater will infiltrate mine workings, the constant influx leads to flooding and the only way to stop the water is by reducing the water table or continually pumping out the water.



The Dewatering Process started at South Crofty in October 2023 and should be completed before April next year.


Refurbishment, exploration and development work is accelerating at South Crofty with dewatering of the flooded historic mine workings now well underway and a Preliminary Economic Assessment for the resumption of production due to be presented later this year, ahead of a full feasibility study and formal investment decision for first production by the end of 2026.


Now Is The Time To Bend To The ‘Tin Cry’


Tin is a ‘Critical Mineral’, as defined by the UK, USA, and Canadian governments, with approximately two-thirds of the tin mined today coming from China, Myanmar and Indonesia.


It is important to note that there is no primary tin production in Europe or North America.


A little of it is present everywhere in ways that are essential to our quality of life.


Called the ‘glue’ of metals, it is used to bind things together.


Tin connects almost all electronic and electrical infrastructure, making it critical to the energy transition - responsible sourcing of critical minerals and security of supply are key factors in the energy transition and technology growth.


It is a critical component of high-tech hardware and electrical vehicles, and also robotics and renewables use the metal.


When a bar of tin is bent it emits a characteristic creaking, known as the ‘cry of tin’.


Over the next decade tin has many opportunities in lithium ion and other batteries, solar PV, thermoelectric materials, hydrogen-related applications and carbon capture.


South Crofty has the 4th highest grade tin Mineral Resource globally and benefits from existing mine infrastructure including multiple shafts that can be used for future operations.


The company is currently targeting the start of tin mining by the end of 2026.


The Price Of Tin


It has been predicted that the global tin market is projected to shift from a surplus of 6,000 tons in 2023 to a deficit of 5,000 tonnes this year.


On the demand side, rising sales in semiconductors and technology, especially in AI and automotive chips, are expected to bolster tin prices, supported by increased global demand for semiconductors.


In the last twenty years the price of tin has risen significantly from around $3,700 to over $28,000 per metric tonne, while forecasts exist for over $29,000 per metric tonne this time next year.


Shareholders


This group’s equity is listed on both the AIM and the TSX-V markets.


Shareholders include Vision Blue Resources with 25.95% of the group’s 535m shares in issue, other holders include Osisko Development (8.57%), Lansdowne Partners (6.23%), N Reed (5.50%) and finally Management and Directors (3.07%).


Analysts View


In a recent report earlier this month, analysts at Hannam & Partners concluded that the diluted target valuation for Cornish Metals is 32.3p per share.


At brokers SP Angel its analysts consider that Cornish Metals has made significant progress towards a reopening of the South Crofty tin mine and on exploration at the nearby United Downs project.


They note that the company is currently dewatering the South Crofty mine workings in preparation for the completion of a feasibility study later this year.


Management raised £40.5m in equity to fund the dewatering and feasibility study work.


The brokers suggest that South Crofty has the potential to produce approximately 4,000 tonnes pa of tin equivalent and to help the UK become increasingly self-sufficient in tin.   


Furthermore, they report that a new discovery at the Wide Formation, Carn Brea has the potential to expand the mine at South Crofty, while work at United Downs could enable a second mine development in later years.


More positively, they conclude that the group’s shares have a valuation of 48p per share.


Following its recent appointment as Joint Broker with SP Angel, Cavendish Capital.



Markets can shortly be expected to publish its analyst’s views, with the Final Results for the year to end January 2024 being announced within the next month.

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