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South Terras Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: PITCHBLENDE & IRON ORE

St Austell: grid reference SW935523

Formerly known as Union Mine, South Terras was originally an opencast pit extracting iron and magnetite from ochre. As the pit grew deeper it became unviable as an open work and more traditional underground mining methods had to be used. The mine is located on the upper reaches of the River Fal, near to Tolgarrick Mill, about one mile southwest of the village of St. Stephen, in the parish of St. Stephen-in-Brannel. Crossing the sett are several tin lodes as well as the ochre pit and one major uranium lode trending southwest to northeast. The mine commenced work as the optimistically entitled 'South Terras Tin Mining Company' in 1872, although it raised very little tin. During the initial years the mine concentrated solely on extracting the iron from the ochre but this was soon to change. On Chistmas Day 1887 a new 21-year lease was granted to work the sett. In 1889 the mine was acquired by 'Uranium Mines Limited' whose first action was to declare the discovery of uranium, in the form of pitchblende, at the mine in mid 1889. South Terras was to become Cornwall's only mine where uranium was the principal ore.

The mine worked the various lodes from a number of shafts including North Shaft, South Shaft, Old Pump Shaft and Gossan Shaft as well as the previously mentioned Old Iron Pit. The pitchblende was largely mined out by 1900 and work at the mine was suspended between 1903 and 1904. In 1905 South Terras was operating again, but was up for sale once more in 1911. On 16th November 1912 the mine was acquired by the Societe Industrielle du Radium Limited working the mine under a new 21-year lease (until 1934). Radium had only recently been discovered, in 1904, and the ore raised was treated in France.

The First World War caused operations at South Terras to be suspended once more. On restarting, in about 1922, a new extraction plant was built and completed. In 1924 South Terras Mine was amalgamated with the nearby Tolgarrick Mine in order to fully extract as much radium as possible. The following year however, the landlords, the Boconnoc Estate began action aiming to receive a just rent from the mine owners. A protracted legal squabble took place over the following years leading ultimately to the downfall of the mining company. The mine was purchased in 1928 by the 'British & General Radium Corporation Limited', actually a German owned syndicate. Pumping recommenced and the mine was dewatered to the 40 fathom level below adit. This venture was unfortunately also short-lived as negotiations with the landowners became strained once more, with South Terras closing for good in 1930.

There is a wealth of information on the mines and miners of Cornwall available. Why not explore Cornwall's industrial heritage through the Bookstore?

Other nearby mines and their main ores

Blencowe Consols (approx. 0.3 km; TIN)

Great Dowgas (approx. 3.1 km; TIN)

St Austell Consols (approx. 3.2 km; TIN, COPPER, LEAD, COBALT, NICKEL & URANIUM)

Parka (approx. 3.8 km; TIN)

Old Beam Mine (approx. 3.8 km; TIN)

Great Hewas United (approx. 4.7 km; TIN, COPPER, LEAD & SILVER)

South Polgooth (approx. 6.2 km; TIN)

Great Polgooth (approx. 6.8 km; TIN & COPPER)

Ruthers (approx. 7.9 km; HAEMATITE & MANGANESE)

Parka Consols (approx. 7.9 km; TIN & IRON)


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