MULTIMILLION-pound proposals to harvest tin deposits from the seabed off Hayle have been unveiled.
The plans, which would see marine deposits of the metal reclaimed between St Ives and St Agnes, could create up to 100 jobs and kick-start major investment in the region.
While the proposals are at a very early stage, Hayle harbour could be used for processing the tin which has been deposited on the seabed as a result of mining.
But some people are concerned there could be serious consequences for the environment and tourism.
Cornish company Marine Minerals has been given a permission from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to investigate whether it is possible to recover the tin in an environmentally, socially and economically viable way.
The rising price of tin, which is used in computers and mobile phones among other things, could see millions of pounds' worth of the metal brought ashore if investigations prove successful.
Marine tin deposits have been mined off the Cornwall coast in the past, most recently in the Eighties, using dredging.
Marine Minerals is looking into more environmentally friendly methods of extracting the deposits, including filtering the sand at sea, with only the portion containing tin – less than 5 per cent – being taken ashore and the remainder replaced.
It is also considering options for how and where the sand can be brought ashore for processing and at the possibility of using Hayle harbour for the task, which could see major investment in the port.
Work to start extracting around 40 core sand samples, allowed by the MMO permission, is due to start in the coming months.
The business, whose chief executive officer is Mike Proudfoot, former manager of Wheal Jane tin mine, has said the plan is at an early stage but could create up to 100 local jobs.
A company spokesman said: "This is potentially a very valuable resource and potentially very valuable for Cornwall.
"It can only go ahead if it can be recovered in an environmentally satisfactory way."
But Surfers Against Sewage's (SAS) campaign director Andy Cummins said the charity had major concerns about the potential effect on "a very valuable" stretch of coastline.
Removing sediment could "rob the beach of its golden sand and for surfers the waves rely on the sand bank to produce quality waves".
It could also release pathogens and other pollutants trapped in the sand from years of sewage discharges.
Hayle-based environmental campaign group, Save Our Sands (SOS), which was set up to protect the beach, towans and estuary, has said it will be monitoring Marine Mineral's proposals closely.
Before any licence can be granted for the tin recovery work, a formal Environmental Impact Assessment will be submitted to the MMO.