Mining in Cornwall
Like most other Cornishmen, mining, and especially tin and copper mining, means a lot to me. The St. Piran flag is meant to represent the 'white' tin occurring as veins against the dark rocks. Mining also played a huge part in the lives of my ancestors. One group of my forefathers gave up a reasonable existence as farmers on the Lizard peninsula and transported their whole family to the tin and copper-rich areas around Camborne in the mid-1840's. Others caught 'Gold Rush Fever' and went to California in 1849. Around 1907-08, my great-grandfather went to South Africa to work in the gold mines around Johannesburg and an uncle emigrated there to 'seek his fortune' in the 1950's.
I wanted to continue this tradition and was lucky enough to have spent some time at the world-reknowned Camborne School Of Mines. Here I learnt that mining in Cornwall dates back to between 1000 and 2000 B.C. when Cornwall is thought to have been visited by metal traders from the eastern Mediterranean. They even named Britain as the 'Cassiterides' - 'Tin Islands'. Cornwall along with the far west of Devon provided the vast majority of the United Kingdom's tin and arsenic and most of its copper. Initially the tin was found as alluvial deposits in the gravels of stream beds, but before long some sort of underground working took place. In fact, where the tin lodes outcropped on the cliffs underground mines sprung up as early as the 16th century.
There are eleven main metalliferous
areas in Cornwall. A section dedicated to each area has been set up to complement
the successful World Heritage Site Bid
of 14th July 2006. Cornwall in Focus has revisited these areas taking
photographs and researching information in order to set up a comprehensive
Mining Database for each district. There
are over 270 pages and an interactive map dedicated to all the major mines of
A taste of what it was like can be found at Geevor Mine at Pendeen; On film at the BBC's Nation on Film and also in the excellent Mining in Cornwall Series by J.H. Trounson & L.J. Bullen. What an epitaph to the thousands of men, women and children who toiled long hours in the 19th/20th centuries to 'win' that tin in the first place! Can it still be said that: At the bottom of every hole in the ground in the world there is a Cornishman'?
There are still several industrial relics left from the heyday of mining and the Mineral Tramways Project aims to provide a network of multi-use trails - such as the Great Flat Lode trail and the Coast to Coast trail - for recreation and interested members of the public. Why not learn more by turning up to one of the many events on the Mineral Tramways.