Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Scots firm lands zinc treasure from Spanish shipwreck

A sculpture coated in zinc by Highland
Highland will use the zinc to coat sculptures and other metal projects

Treasure recovered from a ship which sank off the coast of Spain more than 30 years ago is bound for Scotland.

Lanarkshire-based metal coating company, Highland Galvanisers, has bought 75 tonnes of zinc recently salvaged from the wreck.

The Francois Vieljeux vessel was carrying a cargo of precious metals from Tanzania to ports in northern Europe when the it sunk in 1979.

The firm will melt down the zinc to use at its coating plant in Cumbernauld.

The ship and its cargo had lain at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean until 2006 when a company called Subsea Resources started the process of recovering it using a special vessel fitted with a remotely operated grab.

Opportunities to work with salvaged treasure just don't happen every day
Paul McCafferty
Highland Galvanisers

Expert analysts estimated the lost cargo, which also included 5,500 tonnes of copper, would have a value of about £21m in today's market - the equivalent of 800kg of gold, or almost 400,000 barrels of oil.

Paul McCafferty, director at Highland, said: "It is amazing that the zinc is in perfect condition, despite being more than 25 years under water.

"We have examined and analysed the haul very carefully and are absolutely sure of its purity, and that it complies with Highland's strict specifications for quality."

Highland has most notably galvanized the Famous Grouse gates of Murrayfield Stadium and has worked with sculptor Andy Scott on projects including 'Hamish the Stag' which featured alongside the M8.

Mr McCafferty added: "Everyone at our galvanizing team is genuinely excited at the moment - opportunities to work with salvaged treasure just don't happen every day.

"Highland thrives on innovative projects and the opportunity to recycle perfectly good material like this, and to use it to protect steel, all contributes to Scotland's environmental effort."

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