A MINER says it remains committed to 500-job zinc mine plans despite casting doubt on future operations.

Minco has confirmed it is in talks to extend exploration licences for the Northern Pennine Orefield.

Fears were raised when the project was omitted from the business’ latest annual general meeting statement and bosses reiterated a warning that they couldn’t promise testing would lead to profitable endeavours.

The company also revealed losses of £639,286 for the nine months to September 30, with UK operations showing a loss of £85,000.

However, officials say the Northern Pennine site, which straddles the County Durham and Northumberland border, remains on their radar, adding Donald Trump’s US presidential election could make zinc work even more important.

The company has carried out intensive analysis on the site, drilling more than 30 test holes between Allenheads, near Stanhope, and Nenthead, in Cumbria.

It also previously found a Northumberland site, known as Whitewood-Barneycraig- Williams, which officials believe harbours deep layers of zinc left behind by lead miners of yesteryear.

According to the business’ latest financial update, bosses are seeking fresh licences to probe the Northern Pennine Orefield further.

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

A spokesman said: “Lead and zinc mineralisation on Whitewood-Barneycraig- Williams are considered very positive results and indicate the mineral potential of this large structure.

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

Referring to Mr Trump’s US election success, the spokesman added: “The likelihood of a major infrastructure construction programme in the US would be very significant for base metals, and specifically for zinc, the demand for which is closely linked to steel production.”

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.