A MINER aims to carry out further tests on a potential 500-job zinc development after encouraging test results.

Minco says it has been buoyed by investigations across its Northern Pennine Orefield, which takes in land on the County Durham and Northumberland border.

The company has drilled more than 30 test holes between Allenheads, near Stanhope, and Nenthead, in Cumbria.

However, officials say they have now found a Northumberland site they believe could harbour deep layers of zinc left behind by the lead miners of yesteryear.

They say the Northumberland plot, known as Whitewood-Barneycraig-Williams, will be drilled later this year.

A report said: “Two holes drilled on the fault indicate the mineral potential of this large structure.

“A second phase of drilling is planned for 2016, subject to land access agreements, to further explore the potential, with the primary target being the Barneycraig-Whitewood complex.”

Minco previously said its project could create up to 500 new jobs, with workers earmarked to mine some of the largest amounts of zinc in Europe.

The North Pennine 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.

Danesh Varma, chief financial officer and company secretary, previously confirmed the company had found significant amounts of zinc, as well as lead, in a number of areas.

The firm is understood to have spent more than £500,000 on the development and director Rowan Maule last year told The Northern Echo a mine could be developed within six years.

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 company, lead was the main metal to harvest 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.