West Wheal Tolgus Mine, Cornwall
Redruth: grid reference SW679427
Notable minerals: Chalcopyrite.
The earliest mine in this area was known as Wheal Raven, dating from the early 18th century, with production recorded from the early 1720's. In its lifetime Wheal Raven produced a large amount of copper and a little zinc ore, but hardly any tin. It was never a great success - having quite a chequered history operating for long periods at a loss. Wheal Raven produced over 700 tons of copper ore in the 1760's but was abandoned in 1770 and remained closed during the Great Copper Slump of the 1780's when cheap copper from Parys Mountain in Anglesey flooded the market. It was also a very wet mine and the costs of dewatering the mine were also a factor in its abandonment. After a couple of attempts to reopen the mine in 1793 and in 1805, the mine reopened under the name of Wheal Royal in 1810 but was closed again by 1819. The mine lay abandoned once again until the mining boom of 1824 when it reverted to its former name of Wheal Raven. The mine sold almost 1500 tons of copper ore of a moderate grade and was dewatered using a 36-inch pumping engine along with 5 horse whims. A further depression in the industry at the end of the decade saw the concern idle once more with its plant and machinery up for sale.
In 1831 the mine reopened once more and developed steadily to produce over 500 tons of copper ore in 1836. This was to be a false dawn however as the mine closed again the following year and was put up for sale. In 1844, a new company purchased the mine and renamed it West Tolgus and Treloweth, with the Treloweth name being dropped in 1850. Engine Shaft and another new shaft were developed but produced nothing and the mine closed again by 1851. West Wheal Tolgus lay abandoned for some years now before the mineral rights were purchased from the Robartes and Buller families by the influential John Taylor and Sons in 1860.
The sinking of Taylor's Engine shaft was begun along with construction of associated surface buildings. The engine house on the shaft housing a 60-inch pumping engine with a 10-foot stroke. [This was later increased to a 65-inch pumping engine]. Copper production started the following year with Taylor's shaft reaching a depth of 312 feet or 52 fathoms by April 1862. Although ore was now once again being produced, it was of relatively poor quality and in quite small amounts. The cost of developing Taylor's shaft and the mine as a whole put a heavy burden on West Tolgus. The mine continued to struggle financially until the mid 1860's with dividends not posted until 1874.
In 1864 the 581 tons of copper ore raised was sold at £6.274 per ton, significantly above the price of £5.143 per ton found locally. Over 120people were employed at the mine at this time - rising to over 230 in 1879. and Richards' Shaft was reopened from earlier workings to the west. The mine continued to produce large amounts of copper ore but of a low grade and so sold at a low price. Development continued on Taylor's Engine Shaft, now fitted with a 70-inch pumping engine, and Richards' Shaft until the end of the decade whera a series of accidents caused the mine to flood and remain unproductive for five months, with periods of flooding ongoing in parts of the mine well into 1873. The mineral lord, Lord Robartes and the owners remained committed to the mine throughout this troublesome period and their faith was finally repaid as dividends were offered in 1874. This was largely due to the fact that the mine had located high grade copper ore with production increasing from 1343 tons a year in 1869 to consistently over 300 tons a year in the period 1874-79. The best years's production was in 1877 when just short of 4000 tons of copper ore were raised of almost 10% grade at a value of over £24,000.
Further accidents occurred in January 1879 when the balance bob broke in two places in Richards' Shaft causing the mine to flood once more. Increasing financial burden along with the very wet nature of the mine finally caused its abandonment in February 1884.
For more information on West Wheal Tolgus and its neighbouring mines please purchase a copy of the excellent Cornwall's Central Mines: Northern District, 1810-95 by T. A. Morrison.
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Other nearby mines and their main ores
South Wheal Tolgus (approx. 0.4 km; LEAD, ZINC, COPPER & TIN)
Great South Tolgus (approx. 0.6 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & ZINC)
North Pool (approx. 0.6 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & ZINC)
East Pool & Agar (approx. 0.9 km; COPPER, TIN & WOLFRAM)
Wheal Tolgus (approx. 1.3 km; COPPER & TIN)
East Wheal Tolgus (approx. 1.3 km; COPPER, TIN & ZINC)
Wheal Union (approx. 1.4 km; TIN)
South Crofty (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & WOLFRAM)
Carn Brea Mines (approx. 1.8 km; COPPER, TIN & LEAD)
East Carn Brea (approx. 2.0 km; COPPER)