Boss of Plymouth's tungsten mine steps down after 15 months

Neil Gawthorpe's time as chief executive of Tungsten West is at an end
-Credit: (Image: William Telford)


The boss of the company aiming to reopen Plymouth’s enormous tungsten mine has stepped down after just over a year in charge. It was announced today that Neil Gawthorpe has resigned with immediate effect as chief executive of Tungsten West Plc.

Mr Gawthorpe only took charge of the firm, operating the vast Hemerdon mine near Plympton, in March last year. He remains a director of the company for now, pending finalisation of his settlement agreement.

Mr Gawthorpe took over as chief executive after the departure of Mark Thompson, who himself had been in place for less than a year. Prior to taking the top job Mr Gawthorpe had been a consultant at the mine for a year.

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Alistair Stobie will remain as chief financial officer and will now also take over as interim chief executive and join the board, subject to completion of the customary due diligence required by the Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Meanwhile, Tungsten West has started the process of appointing a permanent chief executive and expects to make an announcement soon.

Mr Gawthorpe had taken command at a crucial time for the AIM-listed company and the mine, the largest tungsten resource in the world outside China and Vietnam. When he became chief executive the company was faced with the prospect of running out of cash before it had received all the permits needed to press ahead with reopening the mine.

But in February this year the company secured a draft vital permit from the Environment Agency which could allow it to raise crucial finance, pending public approval. The public consultation on plans to develop the mineral processing facility, to process tungsten ore at the mine, only closed on May 30. The Environment Agency has said it is “minded to” grant the permit.

David Cather, non-executive chairman of Tungsten West, said: "I would like to thank Neil for the progress at the Hemerdon project that has been made under his leadership, especially in respect of right-sizing the project cost base whilst the updated feasibility study is finalised, obtaining the lifting of the tonnage cap for truck haulage of aggregates, and obtaining the draft environmental permit for the mineral processing facility, the last outstanding permit required for the restart of mining operations. We wish Neil all the best with his future endeavours.

"The company continues to focus on restarting production at the Hemerdon project, and we are pleased that Alistair Stobie will assume the position of interim chief executive whilst we commence the process of appointing a permanent chief executive to help direct our collective efforts at Hemerdon."

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