The operators of the Penouta tin-tantalum-niobium mine in Spain, which faced provisional suspension of the Section C permit in October 2023 following an environmental complaint, have announced a partial reopening while the company awaits the court’s decision.

Strategic Minerals Europe holds two Mining Concessions at the Penouta site: Section C, covering hard rock natural mineral resources, and Section B, covering non-natural resources including tailings and waste dumps from historical operations. The company’s Section C permit was provisionally suspended by the Superior Court of Xustiza of Galicia in October 2023, leading to the immediate closure of the mine. Before its closure, the mine produced 351 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate in 2023.

IberAmerican, currently in the process of merging with Strategic Minerals Europe, announced that production would resume on completion of the proposed transaction, with extraction from tailings and waste materials of the Section B resource. The company also announced that it was committed to making improvements to enhance extraction efficiency from the Section C hard rock resource so that the company can resume production as soon as possible after the lifting of the suspension.

IberAmerican CEO, Campbell Becher, commented: “Upon completion of the Proposed Transaction, we intend to promptly resume production in Section B, generating immediate cash flow. Concurrently, we are dedicated to executing essential capital investments to bolster production efficiencies, laying the groundwork for the reactivation of operations in the expansive Penouta resource within Section C later this year.”

After the abandoning of the Penouta mine in 1985 due to the collapse in tin prices, production recommenced in 2018, but in 2022, a complaint was filed by an environmentalist group against the local mining authority requesting the revocation of the permit. The claim alleged that operations at Penouta were affecting irrigation and the immediate area.

Following the court’s October 2023 decision to provisionally suspend the permit, the company unsuccessfully appealed, with the court reaffirming the provisional suspension until its verdict on the original complaint – due on 31 May 2024.

Our view: After an unwelcome end to 2023 for Strategic Minerals Europe, it is promising to see progress on the Penouta project while the company and its workforce await the court’s decision. The capital investment committed by IberAmerican signals the company’s hope and confidence alongside Strategic Minerals Europe that the court will reconsider the suspension.