Gold found in Cornish mine
Western United Mines said it had discovered gold in samples taken from South Crofty, near Camborne. It plans to expand the exploration to other areas of Cornwall.
John Webster, the firm's chief operating officer, said: "We have found traces of gold while we carried out exploratory drilling and are now identifying gold targets."
He played down the idea that it had been a gold "strike", describing it as "more of an analysis than a strike".
"It is very encouraging," Webster said. "What we now know is that gold is definitely on the menu here. We can't say we are a gold exploration company at the moment, but gold exists in Cornwall for sure."
South Crofty was closed in 1998 after being hit hard by falling tin prices. Western United Mines (WUM) was launched in 2007 to explore South Crofty with a view to extracting tin, copper and zinc. The company also looked for gold in about 15 samples and found traces of the metal in more than one-third of them.
Webster said: "Since we started mining again here it has become obvious that there is much more here than just tin. We are now looking at ways to make mining gold a commercial reality."
Tin once made Cornwall famous around the world, and it is known that mining has been carried out at South Crofty since the 16th century. There was some scepticism locally about the moves to reopen the mine, but WUM now employs 55 people there.
The company is still at the exploration and development stage but believes that it will begin to extract at least copper and tin by 2011.
The highest grade of gold found so far is 1.2 grams per tonne. Webster said mining companies became "interested" if they found 0.6 grams in a tonne. He said he hoped higher grades would be found.
WUM is also expanding its areas of operations further across Cornwall. It has rights to around 150 square kilometres of land, and in the next few weeks hopes to double this.
It is investing in new machinery, more staff and is aiming to build its own laboratory so that it can analyse finds more quickly.
Webster said he believed that gold had been found partly because of advances in equipment but also because the company approached it with "fresh eyes". The soaring price of gold had also encouraged experts to put more effort into finding the precious metal.
He added: "Where there is metal in a big hole in the ground, we will go get it."