A COMPANY behind 500-job zinc mine plans has moved closer to making the proposals a reality.

Minco is in talks to secure further testing agreements at the Northern Pennine Orefield, which straddles the County Durham and Northumberland border.

The company has drilled more than 30 test holes between Allenheads, near Stanhope, and Nenthead, in Cumbria, and previously revealed it had found a Northumberland site, known as Whitewood-Barneycraig-Williams, which it believes harbours deep layers of zinc left behind by lead miners of yesteryear.

The firm has now confirmed tests prove the plot has strong potential, adding they aim to extend exploration licences to carry out further investigations.

A spokesman said: “The intersections of lead and zinc mineralization in two holes on the Whitewood-Barneycraig-Williams fault are very positive and indicate the potential of this large structure.

“We are negotiating extensions or amendments to certain exploration licences and option agreements, and expect to conclude agreements in due course.”

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 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 in six years.

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.

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.