An article in last week's West Briton - now been going for 202 years! - was all about the latest from South Crofty. A report by industry experts have estimated the mine contains about 8 million tonnes of unexploited tin, along with several other ores including silver. That approximates to a value of £1.5 billion.
The article continues as follows:
South Crofty closed in 1998 when tin prices hit rock bottom at about £3000 per tonne. Baseresult Holdings took over the mine intent on restarting tin production, eventually becoming Western United Mines. Rising tin prices in recent years, caused by increasing demand, attracted the interest of Celeste Copper Corporation. The Canadian company, which owns approximately 25% of the mine, has identified Crofty as its number one priority worldwide. It is expected to eventually acquire a 100% interest in the mine.
Does this all sound rather familiar? Just insert the word Warleggan in the appropriate places....
Next year the work will comprise pumping water out of the DOLCOATH section of the mine. About £100m will be needed to get the mine ready for full production, when it should create around 220 jobs.
Just think what Ross could have done with such riches. He would have spread the proceeds about and many would benefit. Had George procured the entire holding he would have become obscenely wealthy (although Harriet would enjoy it). Unfortunately, in the 21st century, the mining company will be the beneficiaries of this modern enterprise, and apart from the employment, not much of it will end up in Cornwall.
I don't think I'd have gone on that open weekend visit with you Mrs G - sounds scary! I've been to the Levant mine - near Botallack - and the cliffs make you (well me anyway!) swoon, but the claustraphobic conditions of the mines themselves must have been dreadful.
Of course the miners and their families had little option.
We get information about South Crofty in the West Briton from time to time. A few years ago, when it was being cleared out ready for modernisation, they held an open weekend, which we went to. It is an old mine, joining up with even older workings, not Trevorgie, but one called Cook's Kitchen, once owned by the Bassetts. Some of the caverns dug out are the size of churches, others so narrow and winding you feel unable to breathe. Entry was by a vehicle - much better than a ladder or a man-engine - and the machinery now is so different from the old pick and shovel as to make it almost another industry. Millions of pounds have been emptied into it over the last few years, but as far as I know, it has still not progressed to the reopening point. A few of the miners at the Open Day had worked there in the 1970s.
Walking through those old tunnels (as I am sure some of you must have done, maybe at Geevor) did bring home the conditions in which the miners used to work. Some passages were really steep and slippery - I could not but think of poor old Francis, and we had battery powered lamps on our helmets! Not a job for the fainthearted either then or now.
In a book I have on Cornwall's history, written in 1959, the author, Halliday, writes the following:
Conditions were appalling. At the beginning of his core a miner would descend the dripping shaft by slimy ladders, often with broken rungs, while on the other side the kibbles raced and rumbled up and down, spilling lumps of ore and sometimes dislodging a rock. A few fathoms down the only light was that from the smoky hempen candle stuck on his hat with a piece of clay, and by this glimmer he sank a hundred fathoms (six feet = 1 fathom) or more to the deepest workings. There perhaps he scrambled another fifty fathoms along the narrow level to his pitch at the end, far from any ventilation, where the temperature might be 90F and the air so stifling that a boy had to fan the candles to keep them alight. There was of course the constant danger of accidents, a fall of rock, a mistimed explosion of gunpowder, while the powder smoke added to the lethal contamination of the air. After 8 hours' work with a pick the miner climbed the hundred fathoms to the surface, where, dripping with sweat, he might find a freezing January evening. Then, in an open shed, with no facilities for washing, he changed his clothes, cold and wet if he had been caught by rain on his way to the mine, and walked home, sometimes five miles or more away.
Just as WG describes. In the early 18th Century, all this for about £10 a year if he was lucky!
Dwight wrote:I followed the South Crofty link, and reading about the enormous sums of money so far invested, and the millions more which are projected, got me to thinking about how much Ross & Francis were about to invest in re-opening their mine. As always a quick Google supplied the answer, and although pricey enough for the impoverished cousins, their combined traunches of £600 each still only stacks up to about £160,000 in today's money, so one can only assume that the set-up and running costs were lower by several orders of magnitude, as indeed were the resultant ore prices and profits, compared with what the corporate behemoths are preparing to invest in re-opening their mine. But then again with tin today approaching £21,000 a tonne, and copper not far off £8000 a tonne, the rewards could also be considerably greater.Of course, in spite of the romance of Poldark, the actual mining is probably little more attractive today than it was then, although the machines, and the ubiquitous Health & Safety regs, have unquestionably improved working conditions. Imagine working for hours, deep underground, half in and half out of water, with no more than an individual candle stuck by clay onto the front of a rudimantary helmet supplying all the light you're going to get ! ! !Dwight
I followed the South Crofty link, and reading about the enormous sums of money so far invested, and the millions more which are projected, got me to thinking about how much Ross & Francis were about to invest in re-opening their mine. As always a quick Google supplied the answer, and although pricey enough for the impoverished cousins, their combined traunches of £600 each still only stacks up to about £160,000 in today's money, so one can only assume that the set-up and running costs were lower by several orders of magnitude, as indeed were the resultant ore prices and profits, compared with what the corporate behemoths are preparing to invest in re-opening their mine. But then again with tin today approaching £21,000 a tonne, and copper not far off £8000 a tonne, the rewards could also be considerably greater.
Of course, in spite of the romance of Poldark, the actual mining is probably little more attractive today than it was then, although the machines, and the ubiquitous Health & Safety regs, have unquestionably improved working conditions. Imagine working for hours, deep underground, half in and half out of water, with no more than an individual candle stuck by clay onto the front of a rudimantary helmet supplying all the light you're going to get ! ! !
Absolutely and if lucky with only a caged canary !
Agreed, together with maximising reduction of known risk profiles as much as possible but with huge differences between the two. Effectively just George at one end and world financial markets at the other as well as enormous world trade markets nowadays than then. So far greater long term unknown and potentially costly risks to Ross and Francis, less so George, than today's short term by contrast unknown ones given the Internet etc. but when one's livelhood is at stake I guess human reactions haven't changed all that much.
Predictably WG's research into all this was just as thorough as ever. In Demelza Book 1 Chapter 4 dealing with the creation of a copper company of their own where Ross, asked by Aukett where the capital was coming from, estimated that "thirty thousand pounds might be nearer the figure needed before it was ended - with huge profits or a complete loss as the outcome." Compared to today where you'd be able to cut your losses and leave in a matter of hours rather than days, or even weeks if the winds were unfavourable and the roads impassable ! I also remember George having quite a few highly necessary political and business contacts (Rothschild) in London, so I would have thought Ross also ought to have given some consideration to having some contacts ready in place too well before the first ticketing rather than relying just on Pascoe who I can't seem to remember having any.
Which has just reminded me of the one thing that's always really puzzled me. Why WG never mentioned anything about carrier pigeons which apparently were first used by the Egyptians and Persians over 3000 years ago, even the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was first delivered by a pigeon to England. And they were certainly used by the French Resistance to send secret coded messages back to England during WWII as well so can you imagine George not having hundreds !
Sad to think now of all the extra time WG would have been able to save not having to travel everywhere visiting research libraries if he'd had access to Google. A good half dozen more books perhaps....
Also found this very useful webpage with some interesting historical facts about early tin and copper mining in Cornwall, with at the bottom some excellent period pictures of Cornish tin mines I've never seen before. One extract WG must also have found stands out....
In 1785 the exploitation of the large and shallow deposit of copper-rich sulphide ores at Parys Mountain on Anglesey (North Wales) precipitated a sharp economic downturn in the fortunes of many Cornish mines. During this period, British copper production exceeded demand by a large margin, whilst a struggle for the control of the copper market between the smelters and the Cornish producers resulted in a glut of copper on the world market; inevitably this was followed by numerous mine closures."
Man engine ( to save climbing ladders presumably)
"Perfection is a full stop .... Ever the climbing but never the attaining Of the mountain top." W.G.
Goodness, those boys really needed their pasties to look forward to in those days and who can really blame them for indulging in the odd glass or two at Sally Chilloff's eh?
Tide was nearly full. Mist lay in a grey scarf along the line of the cliffs. .. and they walked home hand in hand through the slanting shadows of the new darkness.
Looks a possibility....