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History of Cornish Tin Mining

Mining for tin in the south west of England, Cornwall and Devon started around 2100 BC and ended with the south Crofty tin min closing in 1998. They found mostly tin and later also copper in the ground under Cornwall and Devon. The tin mining continued longer than the other metals as it was more profitable. Other metals found include arsenic, silver, zinc and a few other.
As of 2007 there are no active mines left in Cornwall and Devon, however there are still deposits of tin in Cornwall and there is talk more recently of reopening Crofty tin mine.


The intrusion of granite in the surrounding sedimentary rocks gave rise to the mineralisation making Cornwall one of the most important mining areas of Europe until the 20th Century. It’s said that the tin ore was exploited in Cornwall as early as the Bronze age and since they have mined many other metals such as copper, zinc, lead and silver though not in such vast quantities compared to Tin.


One of the most famous tin mines in Cornwall is that of the Ding Dong mine and is reputed to be one of the eldest. Although there was never any evidence to back it up it is said that it was visited by Joseph of Arimathea, a tin trader, and that he brought a young Jesus to address the miners.


There are few remains of Iron Age or prehistoric tin mining within Cornwall and Devon and this is mostly due to the newer mines destroying the earlier ones to dig deeper and find more deposits. And it is also said that the tin resources may have been a big reason to why the Romans invaded Britain, as it was known that the roman’s had control over the mines in Spain and Brittany. And St Piran (patron saint of tinners) was said to have landed at Perranporth from Ireland around 420 AD.


Cornish Tin Mining
Camborne School of mines


Because of the importance of metal mining in the Cornish Economy, Camborne School of mines opened up and established around 1888. They continue to teach today about specialist hard rock and other earth related subjects. They are now situated in Falmouth’s Tremough campus though they have kept the name. You can find Alumni of the Camborne School of mines in areas of the mining industry all over the world.


Many tin mine can still be seen all over the Cornish landscape and are a constant reminder of Cornwall’s history.  Many you can still visit today and there are some standing in Pool near Redruth which have been rebuilt and preserved as a monument to this Cornish Heritage.

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