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Hemerdon Mine

Modular Buildings Provided for First British Metal Mine to Open in 40 Years

It’s found in light bulb filaments, X-ray tubes and radiation shielding. It has a similar density to Gold, and is the only element to ever have been the subject of patent proceedings. It is now being produced in the first mine to open in Britain in 40 years: Tungsten.

The Tungsten and Tin deposit at Hemerdon was first discovered in 1867. Mining operations started in 1919 and continued intermittently until 1944. Since then, market forces have kept what is believed to be up to 40 million tons of ore (possibly one of the largest deposits in the Western world) in the ground. That was the case until an Australian company, Wolf Minerals, acquired the mineral leases to the Hemerdon mine project.

Both Wolf Minerals and their main contractor, GRES, were determined to use local suppliers for as much of the project as possible. When they needed accommodation, they contacted the Wernick Buildings Divisional Office in Plymouth.

Wernick were asked to provide seven buildings in total; for offices, amenities, plant and crusher control rooms and a laboratory. Tender negotiations were complicated by the client and contractor being exclusively based in Australia during the process, and a shared language barrier needed to be overcome in the case of some technical and product terms.

The laboratory building was installed as part of a larger portal frame building that holds extremely large technical equipment. Careful liaising with the client was needed to ensure the two buildings would interface correctly. The most striking challenge Wernick faced though, came from the plant control and crusher control rooms. These were installed on gantries at the height of third and fourth floors, to ensure the occupants could oversee the operation of machinery at the site.

The programme for the seven buildings took only eight weeks to complete. Wernick Buildings Director Simon Reffell commented: “This project is an excellent application of modular construction. To attempt to achieve the level of quality of building we have provided using onsite methods would have been incredibly difficult as well as costly. This is especially true for the elevated units.”

With an estimated production of 5,000 tonnes per annum of tungsten concentrate and 1,000 tonnes of tin concentrate, the mine will be one of the world’s most important tungsten mines, producing about 3.5% of forecast global demand and providing a secure supply of tungsten – which is regarded as a critical mineral by the UK, US and EU.

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