Tungsten mine operators working to address noise complaints as permission sought for new explosives store

By Aaron Kendall   |   Assistant Editor   |
Monday 18th September 2017 12:04 pm
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Photo © jeff collins (cc-by-sa/2.0) ()

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Work is continuing into how to improve the lives of villagers suffering the effects of low frequency noise from a huge metal mine.

Wolf Minerals, operators of the Drake tungsten mine near Sparkwell are also applying for planning permission for a permanent, dedicated explosives store near the site.

But it is the ongoing problems with low frequency noise, vibration and blasting that are the real bugbear of residents.

Last week’s meeting of Sparkwell Parish Council was attended as usual by Wolf staff to give members an update on all things mine related.

Mineral planning and estates manager John Briggs ran through a presentation on the company’s application to Devon County Council for the explosives store. He told councillors that at the moment, explosives for blasting were being brought onto the site on a daily basis, but this resulted in some logistical issues.

There were difficulties involved in achieving ‘just in time’ delivery of the material, and on occasions blasts had had to be postponed. At times it was necessary to send material back with delivery lorries, which suppliers did not like.

Mr Briggs said the proposed facility was not actually in the existing mine planning permission area, but was the nearest suitable site that was available and not allocated for future use. He also gave councillors a rundown of the security measures that would be in place at the site, just west of the B3417 to the west of the main mine site.

Parish council chairman Cllr Robin May said security would be his main concern, and if people knew what they were doing they would potentially be able to mix the components to make explosive.

Cllr Ruth Pearson-Bunt agreed she was very keen to see 'checks and balances' in security terms, adding there were some 'unentertained youths' in the area who might see it as a challenge. There were further questions over why the proposed site had to be so far from the main centre of mine activities, with councillors arguing it would be safer for it to be visible to other staff.

Mr Briggs’ colleague then set out Wolf Minerals’ continuing efforts to address the low frequency noise and vibration problems residents have complained of ever since the mine started work. She said there were three different projects currently being undertaken in an attempt to reduce the noise, looking at acoustics and how to make motors run in ’antiphase’ - so the sound of one cancels out the sound of the other.

Monitoring of some properties in Sparkwell continued, the Wolf employee said, and the company was looking at setting up another public meeting to let residents know what they were doing about the problem. She observed that although the noise levels being produced by the mine were way below the legal limits, feedback from the community was still not that good.

Cllr May said unfortunately villagers felt that 'nothing ever really changes', and there had been a blast on the day of the meeting that had been 'really bad'. He said residents experienced things falling off shelves in their homes, and said there was 'a lot of work still to do' on the problem.

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