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Wheal Jane Laboratory

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The latest industry updates from Wheal Jane Laboratory

Variety is the spice of laboratory life!

If you were asked what the following have in common – charcoal, paint, pen tops, socks, rubber seals, cow slurry, gold teeth, fish waste, cider, printed circuit boards, estuary mud, sapphires, brine, apple puree and ceramic conductors – the answer would be . . . just a few of the things Wheal Jane Laboratory has been asked to analyse in the past twelve months. Add to this all the normal mining and environmental samples, cores, concentrates and effluents, and you get some idea of the wide variety of challenges that face a niche analytical laboratory.

When it comes to where our work originates, there is also an increasingly global variety of customers. 2019 saw work from many parts of Africa, China, Russia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The variety of analytical requests and global clients requires just as many methods and techniques. The traditional wet chemistry is back up by instrumentation such as AAS, ICP, XRF and various others to analyse for base metals, rare earth elements, battery elements and precious metals, including of course gold, and not just from teeth! Variety indeed.

11th November 2019

Battery Elements

Over the last twenty or so years the use of lithium-ion batteries in phones and electric vehicles has brought numerous analytical projects to Wheal Jane. The laboratory has become well established in lithium analysis of ores and brines.

The problem with lithium is supply. Production is failing to keep pace with demand and there are real concerns for the future supply despite the large amount of exploration currently underway.

Even if sufficient deposits are identified, processing is not easy for an element where minerals such as lepidolite, petalite, zinnwaldite and spodumene are involved which are notoriously difficult to separate from their host matrices and then refine. Brines are easier to recover lithium from, but the fundamental problem remains the growth in demand which is out-pacing supply.

Another problem with the lithium-ion battery is that charging time has long been an issue. Cars can take an hour to fully charge and mobile phones can often lose their charge quite suddenly. Therefore, as well as a need for increased supply there is also a need for improved batteries which can extend range by speeding up charging capabilities. This has led to alternatives such as aluminium-graphite and vanadium redox batteries, both of which are potentially superior to lithium-ion in many regards.

The search for all of the metals mentioned above has seen a shift away from analytical requirements for traditional base and precious metals to a focus on “battery metals” some of which have been mentioned but include others that can be utilised in the battery industry that previously were not, interestingly tin is one of them.

All of this means that Wheal Jane Laboratory is already seeing vanadium becoming a regular request for analysis often added on to standard suites but also stand-alone graphite projects are becoming a more regular request. The laboratory remains in the forefront of all these analysis techniques at a very interesting time for the battery industry.

27th August 2019

2018 Round Robin International Testing

For the laboratory it is now that time of year again when we engage in International Round Robin testing. The Australian supplier of Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) Geostats provides samples for analysis to over 100 laboratories around the world. The combined results provide Geostats with the data to fix the standards which they then provide to industry, including ourselves.

The tests cover a range of minerals including cobalt which, alongside lithium, is in increasing demand for battery manufacture.

The Round Robin exercise is a valuable check on our Quality Control Standards. Our last round produced just a single outlier in 155 samples analysed, an impressive result by any standards and one which we are keen to maintain in the forthcoming round.

16th October 2018

Wheal Jane Laboratory spreads its wings

With each year that passes, the projects handled by our laboratory become ever more diverse and even strange. In recent times we have assessed and dealt with wartime munitions, chemicals discovered in the cellar of an 18th Century country house, analysed contaminated paint from a collapsed structure, pig slurry, diamonds, Egyptian sand and material from a Roman archaeological excavation, to name just a few.

In our more day to day work analysing samples for the mining industry, we are pleased to have been employed by virtually every mining and mineral project in Cornwall and Devon, including those endeavouring to search for and extract tin once again, as well as tungsten and more recently lithium. On the international scene, our clients are as always searching for gold, but also platinum group metals in response to increasing demand for electronics and a growing range of industrial applications.

Our world map which plots countries from which we have received analytical work has recently been further extended to include Finland, Sweden, Germany, Greenland, Romania, Peru, Uganda, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, China and Malta. More recently, increasing amounts of work have been arriving from South American countries and even the USA.

Our link with the Department of International Trade (mining and minerals division) through the company’s membership of the Cornwall Mining Alliance (CMA) has resulted in delegates from South American embassies visiting Wheal Jane. Acting as hosts on behalf of the CMA, visitors representing Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Peru were able to meet CMA members. Some took the opportunity to see mining analysis taking place in the Wheal Jane Laboratory before returning to London.

9th October 2018

Construction Club Success

Foot Anstey Construction ClubWe were delighted to be sponsors of the Foot Anstey Construction Club meeting last Thursday in Truro.

Interest in the event was such that over 60 people attended to learn more about the activities and services provided by the Wheal Jane Group.

According to our hosts Foot Anstey Solicitors, it was one of the best attended events they have held.

We invite and encourage all individuals and companies involved in land of property development to contact us. Even better, you can visit us to see for yourself, or visit our websites to find out more about the unique range of services available not only locally but also all under one roof!

14th March 2018


The Lithium Rush

Lepidolite Specimen

Following our news item in September, the global interest in lithium continues to develop, fuelled no doubt by government promises of support for the development and use of electric vehicles confirmed in yesterday’s budget. The use of lithium batteries in electric vehicles is driving manufacturers to ever greater lengths to ensure their future supply of the metal. Amid fears that producers may not be able to fulfill down line commitments for the metal, the latest trend among manufacturers is the purchase of pre-mined lithium – that is lithium which is still in the ground. All a clear demonstration of just how important the element is becoming.

When the necessary new sources are found, huge investment is required to reach extraction, and that investment relies on accurate and reliable analysis. The Wheal Jane Laboratory is well placed to provide this analysis to the mining world through its extensive experience in lithium analysis, developed over a decade of helping clients in South America, Europe and Asia as well as in the UK.

The laboratory has now become a world leader in lithium analysis, now using not only industry standard methods but also methods developed in-house.

23rd November 2017

Wheal Jane Laboratory – ideally placed to analyse Cornish lithium deposits

ICP - lithiumThe news of lithium deposits in hot springs that occur naturally beneath the surface in and around Cornish granites could lead to a resurgence of the mining industry in Cornwall. Wheal Jane Laboratory can provide first class analytical services for anyone looking to invest in Cornish lithium exploration.

We continually invest in new technology such as ICP-OES whilst retaining traditional wet chemistry skills which make our services perfectly placed to analyse for lithium in water samples or mineral deposits using a variety of techniques. Over recent decades, we have applied our historical knowledge and expertise to mining projects from across the world; however, we are excited to have the opportunity of working closer to home now there is exploration potential in the county again.

Wheal Jane Laboratory is a UKAS 17025 accredited testing laboratory No. 4443, and offers a complete analytical service. We specialise in mining, mineral processing and environmental analysis for clients worldwide.

14th September 2017

Dock crane incident analysis

As recent posts have demonstrated, our laboratory is providing analytical services for an increasingly diverse range of projects, the recent incident at Falmouth Docks involving the collapse of a giant crane being a good example.

Following the collapse, a 200m exclusion zone was established as the crane had fallen onto ten acetylene cylinders (rather than the Royal Navy vessel moored alongside). Once the potential danger of the cylinders was resolved and the area deemed safe, the task of salvage and removal could begin. It was at this stage that the Wheal Jane Laboratory was approached to analyse material from the cabin panels which it was believed might contain high levels of lead.

Our laboratory’s capability, including ‘large sample mode’ XRF, enabled whole segments of panel to be analysed without extensive sample preparation. The chemical profile provided by the analysis enabled appropriate and safe disposal of the panels to take place quickly.

A sample of panel material is pictured, along with a print of the complex XRF analysis of the paint.

27th July 2017

UKAS training for Wheal Jane Laboratory

As an accredited UKAS testing laboratory, we are required to regularly audit all aspects of our laboratory business. Becky Turner, who has been working at the Wheal Jane Laboratory for three years, has broadened her skills through the successful completion of an auditing course by UKAS at Denham in Buckinghamshire.

Regular audits are a requirement and are essential to ensure that all our systems and procedures remain compliant with the high standards of the international laboratory accreditation ISO17025.

Becky commented, “The course was delivered by very knowledgeable trainers, and included role plays which were very effective and really got us working as a team. I now have a good understanding of the audit process and its importance within my job role, looking after the laboratory’s management system.”

21st July 2017

Whitley Castle, Roman Fort

Work carried out by the Wheal Jane Laboratory has formed part of an ongoing research programme investigating the history of Whitley Castle.

Analysis of a rock found against a curb on a road near the headquarters building and Commander’s house of this Roman fort in conjunction with study by archaeological experts suggests that it has been in the condition in which it was found since before Roman times.

Jean Lunn, who is leading the research project, says “soldiers base at the fort were occupation troops out to find and use all the local resources in the area. It would be tempting to believe that our rock had been found by a local Roman prospector and brought in for evaluation.”

A talk to delegates at the Alston conference celebrating the diamond anniversary of the excavation of the fort (between 1957 and 1959) concluded, “I would like to offer my grateful thanks to Clifford Rice, the director of the Wheal Jane Laboratory, who spent time and effort on the project beyond the original remit, and ultimately refused to accept any payment for the work that he and his team had done.”

18th July 2017

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