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Industry news: September 2008

Hemerdon feasibility study on schedule

Wolf Minerals Ltd has announced interim results from their feasibility study on the Hemerdon tungsten project in Devon. The metallurgy tests have indicated that the granitic host rock is suitable for crushing using standard equipment with low to moderate energy consumption. In addition, the local planning authority, Devon County Council, has confirmed that the original planning application, granted in 1986 for the mine and infrastructure, is still valid. The company is currently carrying out additional resource upgrade drilling and hydrogeological investigations.

The Hemerdon tungsten project is wholly owned by Wolf Minerals. It has an inferred resource of 82 million tonnes @ 0.22% tungsten trioxide and 0.022% tin. The feasibility study is due for completion in June 2009.

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Wind farm planning inquiry overrules planners

UK windfarm, BGS©NERC

A public inquiry has overturned a planning decision that ruled to halt the construction of wind turbines at Carsington in Derbyshire. The inquiry began in July when the developers of the project, West Coast Energy Ltd, appealed against the planning decision by Derbyshire Dales District Council to stop the development on grounds that it was within an area of natural beauty. However a government inspector has ruled that the development can go ahead with a proviso of 25 conditions.

The project plans to construct 4 turbines on Carsington pasture, 3 kilometres west of Wirksworth, supplying power for up to 5,500 homes.


Protests over mine plans

Climate campaigners opposed to coal developments have staged a protest outside the Leeds Civic Hall. The protest focus is against a proposed mine development near Castleford, in Yorkshire. The developer, Banks Developments, plans to build an open pit mine on a site situated near to the RSPB site of Fairburn Ings. Residents, through an opposition group, Yorkshire Against New Coal (YANC), oppose the project on environmental grounds. Leeds city council is currently considering the proposal.


Future in the dark

A report has warned of UK wide power cuts in the middle of the next decade. The report titled, A Pragmatic Energy Policy for the UK, from Fells Associates, is critical of the Government's current energy policy. The report highlights some of the issues concerning energy supply that may arise half way through the next decade, as the most polluting power generating facilities are being decommissioned and the new generation are being built. The report also emphasises, in its view, the unrealistic targets set for the construction of the new generation of nuclear plants, due to technical manpower shortages and other bottlenecks in the construction process.

Fells Associates is a network of independent energy consultants.

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Sea technology setbacks and successes

The final installation stage of the tidal turbine in Strangford Lough has been delayed. Sea Generation Ltd states that the extended use of a suitable installation vessel by a third party has postponed the final installation of the turbine. The company aim is to construct a 1.2 megawatt tidal energy converter at the mouth of Strangford Lough in County Down, Northern Ireland. This would generate enough power for 1000 homes.

Sea Generation Ltd is a subsidiary of Marine Current Turbines Ltd, a Bristol–based company, that develops tidal power technologies. In mid–September Marine Current Turbines was ranked 5 th in the Guardian Library House 2008 Cleantech 100, that rates Europe's most innovative clean technology firms.

Another UK firm that has made a recent impact in sea-based technologies is Pelamis Wave Power Ltd of Edinburgh, who are ranked 7th in the Cleantech 100. Palamis Wave Power designed and built the first commercial scale wave power generators, which are located three miles off the northern coast of Portugal.

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Peak District quarry dispute resolved

UK quarry, Photo Copyright: BGS©NERC

A long running dispute between the Peak District National Park Authority and Stancliffe Stone, UK's largest producer of dimensional stone, has been resolved. Stancliffe Stone has agreed to give up their planning permission, granted in 1952, and discard any plans to reopen the Lees Cross and Endcliffe quarry on the edge of Stanton Moor. This site is controversial due to its proximity to the Bronze Age remains at Nine Ladies Stone Circle. In return, the Peak District National Park Authority has granted permission to the quarry operators for the extension of Dale View quarry which is situated in a less sensitive area.

This agreement has ended many years of protests, campaign camps and legal battles.

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Government battles for energy security

Power plant, Photo Copyright: BGS©NERC

John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, speaking at the recent Labour Party conference, placed energy security at the centre of the plans for Britain's economic future. Addressing the attendees he stated that the next decade will see a "new era for renewable energy in the UK with a seven–fold increase in clean energy from our abundant natural resources, on land, sea and air" and "a renaissance in nuclear power". On the subject of coal and new coal–fired power stations, Mr. Hutton argued "keep cleaning it up, not ruling it out". Continuing, Mr. Hutton made his intentions clear "…no coal plus no nuclear equals no lights. No power. No future".

Source:,2008-09-22 [no longer available]

China clay investment

Imerys Group, the international industrial minerals company, has unveiled a £20 million investment at its site in Bugle, near St. Austell, Cornwall. New presses have been installed which will manage all the company's china clay production. This is good news for the 1000 strong workforce based in the Southwest that has had to deal with job losses and closure for a number of years.


EDF-British Energy merger

UK nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

The French power company EDF has acquired British Energy, in a deal worth £12.5 billion. The majority state–owned EDF, which operates 58 French nuclear reactors, supplying 80% of French electricity, plans to expand the eight British Energy reactors by building four new reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset. Although these plans have been welcomed by the British Government, environmentalists are opposed due to safety concerns. Meanwhile, EDF's energy rivals have expressed concern over a clause in the merger deal that allows EDF to delay development on sites until 2011.

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Coalbed methane returns

An Australian firm has announced positive results from three test drilling sites for coalbed methane. Eden Energy, which has been exploring in South Wales, has located enough methane to meet 5% of the entire annual UK energy demand for a year. The company is expanding its test drilling sites and hopes that a further 6 to 10 targets will be explored. Coalbed methane is an important energy resource in parts of North America and Australia.

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Industry associations to merge

Three organisations representing industries that contribute £5 billion to the UK economy have announced that they plan to merge into one organisation. The British Cement Association (BCA), the Quarry Products Association (QPA) and The Concrete Centre (TCC) plan to re–launch under one banner in January 2009.

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