A FIRM exploring Roman lead mines for zinc has reiterated the project’s huge potential.

Minco says tests across its Northern Pennine Orefield are yielding significant deposits, which could deliver millions of tonnes of zinc.

The firm has now drilled 30 test holes across the County Durham and Northumberland border, covering areas between Allenheads, near Stanhope, and Nenthead, in Cumbria, since starting work in 2013.

Bosses previously said the project could create up to 500 new jobs, with workers mining some of the largest amounts of zinc in Europe.

The North Pennine lead field was the UK’s most important lead producer between 1750 and 1850, employing thousands of men across Teesdale, Weardale, South Tynedale and the Derwent valley.

Rowan Maule, a director at Minco, told The Northern Echo while a lot of work was still to do, its findings were proving very positive, with areas harbouring deep reserves left behind by generations of lead miners.

He said: “Drilling is ongoing and we are finding a lot of zinc.

“It wasn’t touched by the old miners because they were more focused on the lead and they also didn’t have the technology now available to get at it.

“It is a big and complex system and it’s very intriguing.

“Our work is continuing, but there will come a time when we look at what we have got and what we need to do going forward.”

The company, which is understood to have spent in excess of £500,000 on the development, says it has drilled more than 7,300 metres in the programme, revealing it has discovered an area around Nenthead never previously mined and explored a site in Northumberland, which it said has great zinc potential.

Mr Maule previously told The Northern Echo tests could carry on for about two years, saying the company was excited at the thought of bringing mining back to the region.

He added: “This could be a world-class area, and is an important mining area because of its history.

“If our work proves sufficiently a mine could operate there, it would be very good for the economy and create good and well-paid jobs.”

John Kearney, Minco’ chairman and chief executive, added: “The results from the holes drilled confirm the potential of the Northern Pennine Orefield for the discovery of new minerals, showing its potential to host an economic zinc lead deposit.”

Minco’s development area was first mined by Romans, with zinc and lead production starting in the mid-17th century and continuing through to the end of the 19th century, before working at reduced levels until 1938.

According to the firm, lead was the main metal harvesting profit, with zinc work mainly focused between Coalcleugh, near Hexham, and Nenthead, in Cumbria, which produced more than 19,000 tonnes of zinc from 1942 to 1943.