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Tungsten West supports promising geologist with study placement

Tungsten West is committed to supporting geologists of the future through its work with local educational institutions as part of its environmental and social responsibilities.

The latest student to benefit from a study placement at the Hemerdon Mine is Rachael Sims, who is in the final months of her Mining Geology Masters Degree at the Camborne School of Mines.

Rachael, 23, spent two weeks at the mine on the outskirts of Plymouth, which is home to the third largest deposit of tungsten in the world, to carry out fieldwork for her thesis.

We spoke to Rachael about her experiences at Tungsten West and why she chose a course in geology.

She explains: “I have always been really fascinated by the world around me and enjoy using science and maths to find solutions to real-world challenges. Geology is a very diverse and relevant degree which has taught me lots of practical skills. During my undergraduate degree, I could start my day learning about how scientists reconstructed the colour of feathered dinosaurs, by lunchtime I am looking down a microscope trying to identify minerals within a copper deposit and may finish my day by modelling contaminants within a groundwater aquifer. It never gets boring.”

Rachael went on to tell us why her knowledge will be important to the world today. She said: “I chose to focus my postgraduate degree in mining geology as modern society relies on having access to raw materials. As the world continues to develop and the demand for green infrastructure increases, geologists will need to identify and evaluate new sources of critical raw materials and ensure these are extracted responsibly and safely.”

Tungsten West supported Rachael in her studies by appointing project supervisors from the Geology Team and accommodating a 2-week placement for the purpose of mapping and sampling collection within the tungsten and tin pit. They have also provided on-site geochemical analysis for the samples Rachael collected during fieldwork.

Rachael said: “The deposit geology at Hemerdon Mine is impressive and to have such a world-class example within the UK is exciting. When the opportunity came up to complete my master's project and thesis on the mafic rocks here, I knew I had to go for it.

“When I first saw the pit I was surprised at how colourful it was (which is caused by different alteration and weathering effects). Once you get your eye in you realise how much variety there is in the host rocks. I was also surprised at how large the ore minerals are - before visiting the mine I had only seen ferberite specimens as small crystals, so it was surprising to find samples almost as big as my hand!”

The work Rachael is doing will develop mafic lithology classification criteria and comment on the implications for tungsten ore mineralogy and lode style mineralisation. This will help to better understand the geochemistry and mineralogy for these rocks within the pit and has the potential to help inform decisions about the best way to process them.

When asked whether she would recommend a placement with Tungsten West to other students, Rachael said: “Absolutely. The geology is very exciting and unique, so it is a great opportunity to learn and contribute knowledge. Everyone I’ve met has been really friendly and supportive. The Geology Team have been fab in getting me settled into the project and helping me work through the challenging aspects of the geology. I am very grateful for their assistance in the pit and for everything they have taught me about working in the mining industry.”

Tungsten West is responsible for bringing the Hemerdon Mine on the outskirts of Plymouth back into operation. The company has pledged to be a socially and environmentally responsible tungsten and tin mine and as part of that commitment has, and will continue, to support geology, mining and geography students through placements.

Tungsten is considered to be a conflict mineral - it appears on the critical minerals list for countries around the world. It is needed for the manufacture of progressive technologies such as electric cars, solar panels and wind turbines.

Tungsten West is currently working on plans that will see the restart of mining operations in 2023.

Rachael is set to complete her Degree within the next two months, at which point she will hand in her thesis and present her findings to the Geology Team at Tungsten West.

Following this, Rachael will be heading to Tarmac as a graduate geologist and we wish her all the best in her future career.

15 July 2022


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