Last-minute rescue for tin mine: Anonymous investors fly cheque from London to Cornwall to beat deadline

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SOUTH CROFTY, Cornwall's last working tin mine, has been saved from closure by two anonymous foreign investors only two hours before the deadline for a rescue rights issue expired, writes Danny Penman.

The Department of Trade and Industry and RTZ, the mining conglomerate that formerly owned South Crofty, had agreed to write off the tin mine's pounds 30m debt if shares worth pounds 1.8m in the company could be sold on the open market.

South Crofty, near Redruth, had less than six weeks to organise the share issue. Its deadline was midnight on Thursday.

Money from small investors across Britain poured into the company's offices. Negotiations between the mine and two foreign investors only came to fruition at 10.30pm on Thursday. The investors agreed to buy pounds 600,000 of shares and the final cheque was received by the mine late on Thursday evening - having been flown from London to Cornwall.

Applications for shares totalling pounds 1.15m had been received by midnight on Thursday - pounds 500,000 from 1,527 small private investors.

The issue has stirred strong feelings across Cornwall. 'We bought them because we're Cornish and it's Cornish. It seems to me you have to support your own county because if you don't nobody else will,' Mike Polkinghorne, a retired teacher living near Truro, said.

'Tin mining is part of our heritage - the old Cornish crest used to have a tin miner on one side, a fisherman on the other and a Cornish chough on the top. The chough has died out, fishing is in trouble and now there's only one mine left.'

Mr Polkinghorne and his family, bought shares worth just over pounds 1,000 in South Crofty.

The management and workers bought the mine from RTZ in 1988. Since then the workforce has been slashed from 500 to 260 to reduce operating costs.

(Photograph omitted)