Drilling for jobs 600 metres below the
A ONE million US dollar exploratory drilling program in search of a major zinc-lead deposit in the North Pennines has just been announced.
If Minco plc finds the minerals it is looking for, any future mine could employ up to 500 highly trained and well paid technical staff.
The diamond rig began drilling 4,200 metres of boreholes in the North Pennine orefield this week. The drilling will take all winter at a rate of between 20 and 30 metres a day.
It is being carried out by Irish Drilling Ltd. on behalf of Minco, which is a metal exploration and development company working in Mexico, Canada and Ireland.
Minco said the North Pennine orefield is the largest area of carbonate-hosted lead-zinc mineralisation within the UK. It covers an area of approximately 40km by 35km and is located south of the Tyne Valley, east of the Eden Valley and north of Stainmore Forest.
Minco director Rowan N. Maule said: “It must be emphasised that this is deep drilling and has nothing to do with the old mines in the area but looking at the strata 400 to 600 metres below. This winter’s program is to drill around 4,200 metres.
“Due to the depth of the holes this is a long, slow process and will take many years and many winter programs to build up a picture of what is happening below the ground. Ultimately any minerals found could only be accessed by discrete underground mining and the entrance of such an operation could be placed many miles from the minerals.”
The company believes new deposits could be significantly larger than any previously discovered in the area.
The initiative to explore the North Pennine orefield has been under consideration by Minco for a number of years and was developed independently by the company’s technical team of Peter Tyler and Terence McKillen, the firm’s chief executive, who successfully identified the potential for and led the discovery of the Pallas Green zinc-lead deposit in Ireland.
Specific exploration targets have been identified by Minco and initial exploration drilling will be focused at three principal sites. The average depth of each hole will be approximately 500 metres.
Minco, which has budgeted approximately $1 million for the initial exploration program over the next 12 months, has entered into agreements, through a wholly-owned UK subsidiary, with a number of mineral rights and surface rights owners and has obtained the necessary permits and permissions from the local councils.
Commenting on the new exploration initiative in the North Pennines, Mr. McKillen said: “We have been developing the geological theory behind this new exploration effort for several years in what appears, in our opinion, to be one of the best unexplored areas in Europe for the discovery of major, new zinc-lead deposits.”
Work on the drilling prompted rumours in Nenthead. One resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “It’s downright sneaky. It’s our village and we have committees for everything and we haven’t heard anything about it. Nobody has been told.
“There are rumours that it will be a multi-million development and the company will bring money and lots of people to excavate the minerals. It’s so rich in minerals up there near the old Coldcleugh Mine.”
The exploratory drilling is being carried out within the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: “”Planning laws allow exploratory drilling for minerals under ‘permitted developments’, therefore the current operations by Minco plc are both valid and legal.
“Minco plc has notified the county councilof its intention to start drilling two exploratory boreholes this month in a field above Nenthead in a search for zinc resources deep under theNorth Pennines AONB.
“There are general conditions that apply to such permitted development, including that the site and the access tracks leading to it are returned to previous conditions, and the county council has also agreed specific conditions, such as which access points should be used and that any matter drilled out is taken away from the site.
“A further boreholewill be drilled in another field, and the company will inform Cumbria County Council again to ensure suitable specific conditions are imposed. The work being carried out only involves very minor disruption or visual impact the core material extracted from the boreholes is only around 5cm in diameter and drilling machinery will only occupy a space of around 25m by 15m for each of the two boreholes.
“The field above Nentheadwould not be the place where any surfaceworkings or entrancewould eventually be located. The siteis merely the most suitable place to do the exploratory borehole work. If sufficient mineral deposits were to be discovered to make deep mining apossibility, full planning permission would be required for any surface development, which could be many miles away from the current drill site, in a less sensitive location.”