The Peak Years of British Copper Mining

The hey-day of British copper mining was during the earlier part of the 19th Century, when Great Britain contributed more than half of the world's output, the bulk coming from Cornwall. Industrial needs were also growing fast, so that large tonnages of the metal still had to be imported from abroad, particularly from Russia, which was then a very important producer, and from Chile. By the end of the century, however, the large, readily available quantities that had been opened up by foreign mining, coupled with the growing exhaustion of the Cornish mines and the serious trouble and expense due to the water in the workings, reduced the output of Cornish ore from 18,300 tons per annum to virtually nothing. But by 1933, the world's reputed output from smelters had risen from 291,000 tons in 1852 to about three million tons annually. The greatest single cause for this great expansion was the enormous growth of the electrical engineering industry (see Chapter 6).

During the middle of the 18th Century the quantity of British copper sold was over 700,000 tons; while from 1771 to 1838 about 5 million tons in all were produced in this country. The mine of Parys, in Anglesey, was an important producer at the former date. Copper mining had been resumed there in 1757 after a gap of centuries, and for a good many years this mine regularly produced 2,000 to 3,000 tons of copper per annum, the workings being carried down progressively to 1,030 ft below the surface. The Parys ore was a complex sulphide. With that inconsistency which has been the fate of so many mines, the supply fell away once more, but it revived again in mid-Victorian years.

Hardly any copper is now produced from British ores.