There’s tin in them there waters…


Proposals to ‘mine’ the sea bed between St Ives and Perranporth bring out the NIMBY in me… 

Oh dear. I really don’t want to turn into some kind of knee-jerk NIMBY (not in my backyard) type, but I nearly choked on my cup of tea when I read this article on the ‘This is Cornwall’ website. Apparently a company called Marine Minerals Limited is planning to apply for permission to drill/dredge for tin off the north Cornwall coast, between St Ives and Perranporth. According to the article:

“In total the company proposes to extract around two million tonnes per year over a minimum of a ten year period.”

I assume they’re referring to two millions tonnes of sand or silt, not tin (!) I’m no expert, obviously, but twenty million tonnes dredged over a ten year period sounds like an awful lot. This has inevitably  raised concerns over the impact on the marine environment, on the surfing industry that attracts thousands of visitors a year to this coastline and on the tourism industry in general.

I must declare a selfish interest here. I live in St Agnes, and my favourite place in the world is the stretch of coast between Chapel Porth and Trevaunance Cove, right in the middle of the proposed dredging area. The thought of permanent damage being inflicted on the marine environment there is too awful to contemplate. Perhaps the comparison is not valid, but having lived in Hong Kong for many years and seen the irreparable damage done to the (formerly) beautiful coastline there by massive dredging activities, I shudder to think of anything of that kind happening in Cornwall. Of course, the scale would be vastly different, but the lesson from other parts of the world is that marine environments are extremely fragile and once damaged, are gone forever.

Now, in fairness to Marine Minerals Limited, their website shows that they are sensitive to these concerns and are engaging with interested parties, such as Surfers Against Sewage, to discuss the issues. We must overcome our innate NIMBY tendencies and trust that the government agencies charged with examining proposals of this type will do their job and that the project will not go ahead unless the environmental impact can be minimised. I for one will be watching the progress of these plans carefully in the coming months.

So there I was, attempting to end this blog post on an admirably balanced and open-minded note. And then it all went wrong when I came across this statement from the company:

“Should this method of tin extraction move to full production, it would bring significant numbers of jobs and investment to Cornwall, both at sea and on land.”

Why does it seem obligatory for every potentially controversial proposal to include a promise that it will bring an unspecified number of “jobs and investment to Cornwall”? No doubt this line was included at the suggestion of a PR company who thought it would help to win local hearts and minds. Sadly, I think that the Cornish people have become profoundly cynical about these kind of vague promises, having been burnt too many times in the past. My advice to the company would be to stick to hard facts and win (or lose) the argument on that basis.

Leave a comment


  1. This makes my heart sink. I’m a little bit in shock still that anyone of sound mind and judgement could even consider dredging in this the most beautiful part of England. It’s just a NO.

  2. CornwallNow

     /  March 25, 2013

    Yes I know. It seems that nothing is off limits these days in the name of ‘enterprise’. I haven’t seen any updates on the project for a couple of weeks now. One alarming suggestion is that the local company applying for permission is a ‘stalking horse’ for other, perhaps foreign companies i.e. the local company wins the licence and then sells it on. I would stress that I have seen no proof of this whatsoever so it could be completely false but it’s another reason to watch the situation closely.


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