The saga of South Crofty mine took another twist this week as owners Baseresult set off an explosion to open up a new shaft which they claim marks the beginning of a new phase for mining in the county.

The new tunnel, which will link the Tuckingmill Decline with New Cook's Kitchen, will change the mine's status to "operational" say company bosses.

The tunnel, blown open yesterday in a blaze of publicity and with the press present, will take about six months to complete and will be an important piece of preparatory work before the draining of millions of tons of water from the surrounding shafts can start.

Managing director Kevin Williams said: "It is a very exciting step forward and represents yet more evidence of our absolute determination to get South Crofty working as a fully operational tin mine again.

"It is better to excavate this initial tunnel whilst the mine is full of water in order to prevent damage to the other shafts while the connections are made." he said.

But the new work at Crofty has done nothing to deter the plans put forward by the Camborne Pool Redruth Regeneration group. They want the site under their control and still plan to go for compulsory purchase if needs be.

Dr Tim Williams, chief executive of the regeneration group said: "Our concern is primarily with what happens above ground at the South Crofty site, rather than what's going on below, so the announcement changes little.

"What we are objecting to is Baseresult's planning application that has been submitted to build up to 350 houses on South Crofty. We think this is a bad use for one of the best development areas in West Cornwall and there are many other sites available for quality and affordable housing in Camborne, Pool and Redruth.

"We also question the company's ability to develop a scheme of this size, and how it could co-exist with mining.

"Our own plans for the site, including a £25 million sports and leisure complex, would retain the South Crofty headgear and access to the mine in the event that it ever became commercially viable and would, we believe, be more compatible with a mining operation than a housing estate.

"We will continue our discussions with Baseresult about the future of the site but at the same time we are preparing the way for compulsory purchase if necessary."

Baseresult claim that a fully operational tin mine employing 200 people is still two years away but new techniques will make the mine 30 per cent more cost efficient. The company has already increased its staff from 14 to16.

Falmouth-Camborne MP Candy Atherton, who is a board member of the CPR, told the Packet: "I understand the passion and the commitment of some of the people involved and I respect that they want to do what they feel is right. However, the CPR also wants to do what is right for the regeneration of the whole area."

The CPR is yet to put a compulsory purchase order on the mine, but say it is still an option as negotiations between the two parties continue.