Tin Mines Under the Atlantic Ocean!
Visit the online EXHIBITION
St Just Mines Research Group
St Just lies in the far south western corner of Great Britain just north of Lands End, although copper and other metals were produced overall the area is most important for its production of tin which has spanned several thousand years. Initially this tin production was from alluvial deposits which had been created by the weathering of mineral rich veins, the high density tin stone was concentrated by the action of rivers to produce rich and easilly worked deposits. Cassiterite or tin oxide is not affected by chemical weathering unlike many of the other minerals which occur with it so alluvial tin produces quite pure metal with few impurities.
It is not known when underground or hard rock mining started in this area, there is historical evidence of underground activity during the 16th century becoming increasingly important in the 19th and 20th centuries when the alluvial deposits were mostly exhausted. The Geevor mine operated profitably through most of the 20th century but the collapse in the tin price in 1985 lead to eventual closure the pumps were finally switched off in 1991. Today the site is open to the public as a mining heritage centre with a museum and guided surface and underground tours through some of the older shallow workings.
Although long abandoned the mines of Levant and Botallack are known throughout the world partly due to the number of former miners who emigrated after closure and also due to their locations, perched on the cliffs worked far out beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Several other mines were worked beneath the sea coming perilously close to disaster, at Wheal Cock it is said a hole was drilled through the sea bed and the flow of salt water stopped with a wooden plug. At other mines larger holes were made on the foreshore between high and low water so repairs were possible, such a hole can be seen at Priest's Cove on the Saveall's lode of St Just United Mine. At Levant the sea broke into the workings some time after it closed in the 1930's, this hole was below low water so was always covered by fairly deep water. When the nearby Geevor mine wanted to develop into this area they had to seal this breach with concrete, not an easy task. The picture of Skip Shaft below shows the Atlantic ocean in the background.
Many books have been written about the area but possibly the most informative and accurate on the lifestyle and techniques of 19th century miners is a work of fiction! Try and find a copy of 'Deep Down' by R.M. Ballantyne
PHOTOS BY CHRIS HENDERSON - GEEVOR TIN MINE
More Photos from the St Just Mining District
St Just Mines Research Group
Deep Down A taste of 1860's miners life at Botallack
See some things I've made from Cornish tin
Tin Metal Information on tin and its alloys
Photos of Wenvoe Iron Mine, South Wales
Submarine Mines of the St Just District - online exhibition loads of photo's and information on these coastal mines
Royal Geological Society of Cornwall
GEEVOR - Today Geevor is a thriving museum, visit online and find out about making a real visit.
Levant Mine Lots of photos, and up to date information about what's happening on this site today.
Camborne School of Mines Virtual Museum a great new site, very informative.
The St Just Mining and Mineral District Virtual Musuem - St Just Mining District Geological Mineral Specimen Collections
Mines of the Isle of Man a great new site by Laxey Mines Research Group
British Mining Database for info on Shropshire mines and a very comprehensive list of mining and caving links.
The Mining History Network for info and links to many UK and World mining history sites.
Bronze Age Craft - Information on early metallurgy - Courses etc.