Indium in Cornwall


Kevin Williams, the managing director of Western Union Mines, which owns South Crofty, said: \”It is a very significant discovery because there is no other UK producer of indium. In fact, very few countries in the world do produce it in any big way.\” Western Union Mines originally hoped to find commercial quantities of zinc and applied for planning permission for modern processing facilities. It currently employs 60 workers and recently laid off 16 due to delays in securing investment. But it now hopes to employ up to 400 staff within two years.

John Webster, Western United Mines\’ chief operating officer, said: \”We found up to 1,000g of indium per tonne in some assays, but generally the average has been about 100g per tonne which is about one kilo every ten tonnes.

\”Each kilo is worth about £500 and we estimate we will mine between 250,000 to 400,000 tons per year in the first phase.\”

Note that they\’re saying they\’ll be mining 250,000 tonnes a year of ore, not of indium. They will be, at those numbers, getting perhaps 25 tonnes of indium. Which in a 600 tonne a year global market is pretty good actually.

Although to be honest with you, hard rock mining for something at 100 ppm concentrations doesn\’t sound all that sensible. Especially something like indium where the price (as with all minor metals) bounced around hugely. I\’ve seen it at over $1,000 a kg and at under $100 kg. The reason being that it\’s almost always extracted as a by product. If demand rises few will make more zinc (it\’s usually a by product of zinc mining) to get more indium, few will stop processing zinc if the price falls. So changes in demand don\’t really lead to large changes in supply, meaning that the price is very volatile.

Good luck to them by all means, but I wouldn\’t want to be basing my mining economics on being the swing provider of such a minor metal.

If they\’re going to produce zinc (and maybe tin) as well, that\’s a little different.

There\’s almost certainly Sc at 50 ppm in that ore as well….hmmmm…..

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