South Crofty

South Crofty



South Crofty Mine, at Pool between Camborne and Redruth, is an ancient tin mine. For several centuries its shallow workings exploited copper rather than the deeper tin mineralisation. References implying mining, rather than streaming, occur in the area as early as 1592, and clearly by the mid 1600s mining was well established. During this period part of the mine which today is known as South Crofty was then called Penhellick Vean. The first really significant developments came in 1710 when Francis Bassett obtained a lease of Penhellick Vean and a drainage adit was begun. Over the next twenty years these shallow workings (less than 40 metres deep) produced copper of great value and made the fortune of the Bassett family. Following the opening-up of the numerous copper mines on Anglesey, which occurred in the 1770-1780 period, most of the mines around South Crofty closed down.

The 19th Century

By 1822, copper ore was being raised at a new mine in the area, East Wheal Crofty, which by 1833 included Penhellick Vean. Mining depths were now 80 metres or more, and throughout the 1830s a substantial investment was undertaken to improve the mine including a rail link; so much that by 1842 East Wheal Crofty was regarded as a 'model' mine. This state of affairs did not last however, and by 1863 part of the property was for sale. The remainder of the mine, now at least 210 metres deep, was renamed South Wheal Crofty which, with the deletion of 'Wheal', has been the name ever since.

The mine now faced one of its most far-reaching changes. In the 1860s, South Wheal Crofty was still almost entirely a copper mine but by 1873, after a substantial investment in new dressing machinery, the mine was - financially at least - dependent upon tin. Copper remained significant until 1880, when shallow reserves were exhausted. The mine was now operating at the 260 fathom level, where only tin was found. The collapse of the tin price affected South Wheal Crofty both directly (loss of revenue) and indirectly, via increased pumping costs as neighbouring mines closed down. In February 1896 mining was suspended and the mine flooded.

In 1899 further backing was obtained and South Crofty gradually reopened, and acquired the adjacent New Cooks Kitchen mine. Improvements were made in the mine and the deepening of Robinsons Shaft commenced in 1903. The mine returned to profit and in 1906 a new era began, with the incorporation of South Crofty Limited.

The 20th Century

By 1908 the Robinsons Shaft had been sunk to the 205 fathom level and work had begun on a second new shaft at New Cooks Kitchen. increasing use was made of rock drills and, by 1910, the mine operated profitably hoisting 60,000 tons of ore annually. By 1914, the works were down to 310 fathoms [Barton D B (1963) "The Mines of West Cornwall", 52pp.] .

For the next seventy years South Crofty continued to modernise and expand. As nearby mines closed, they were acquired by South Crofty to supplement its ore reserves at depth. The major purchase was of Dolcoath mine in 1936. Ore production, which had not exceeded 75,000 tons a year since 1906, was increased to 92,000 tons in 1959 following improvements in both mine and mill. Production exceeded 100,000 tons in 1968 for the first time.

Black tin production was steady at between 500 and 800 tons a year from 1907 to 1956, excluding a break in production during the tin price slump of the early 1920s. Wolframite and Arsenic was also produced at the mine, the former accounting for around 50 tons to 150 tons between 1907 and 1956, and the latter between 500 tons and 1000 tons during between 1907-1919, declining to 100 tons by 1956. [Dines H G (1956) "The Metalliferous Mining Region of South -West England", 326pp.] .

In 1967 South Crofty Ltd became a wholly owned subsidiary of Siamese Tin Syndicate Ltd and Siamese Tin's subsidiary, St. Piran Ltd. This change of ownership was the start, in 1969, of a £1 million programme to increase ore hoisting capacity and to make substantial improvements to the mill. By 1975 the mill was processing more than 200,000 tonnes of ore (including some from Pendarves mine) to yield around 1,500 tonnes of tin concentrate.

In mid 1982 the company was acquired from St. Piran by Charter Consolidated, which subsequently disposed of 40% of its holdings to Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ). These holdings were vested in a new holding company, Wheal Crofty Holdings Ltd, with the same balance of ownership. Then in 1984 RTZ acquired Charter's 60% interest and South Crofty became part of Carnon Consolidated Ltd.

In October 1985 the price of tin dropped dramatically on the world markets following the collapse of the International Tin Agreement. Carnon rationalised the operations, involving closure of the Pendarves mine which had supplied ore to the South Crofty mill. With a diminishing ore supply, this mill was progressively shut and by 1988 all South Crofty ore was trucked for processing at Wheal Jane.

As well as a reduction in manpower, the mines were rationalised and a programme of modernisation, started by RTZ before the price crash, was stepped up. This was made possible by the co-operation and financial support of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the form of loans for the capital improvement. The majority of this capital was put into the South Crofty mine. In addition, RTZ also provided a loan to fund the operating losses.

Carnon became privately owned in June 1988 when the business and assets of the group were purchased from RTZ through a Management Buy Out. A trust was established for the benefit of the employees who received twenty percent of the equity. Carnon Holdings Limited, was incorporated at this time.

In February 1991 the DTI stopped all further support of capital projects. The company substantially reduced labour costs which coupled with a small rise in the tin price allowed the mine to continue operating at a small loss. The losses were funded through the sale of surplus land and redundant assets. In 1994 South Crofty was purchased by Crew Natural Resources of Canada, and the New Roskear shaft took over from the Robinson Shaft as the secondary access shaft of access.

After several more years of depressed tin prices, South Crofty ltd announced in August 1997 that closure was imminent, and after further attempts at the time to keep the mine open, closure was completed by March 1998.

The 21st Century

Development proposals

In March 2001 a new locally-formed company named Baseresult Holdings Ltd. bought the land and buildings together with mineral leases and equipment with the stated aim of re-opening the mine. In the same year they started refurbishment of the New Cooks Kitchen section of South Crofty Mine. By 2003 an underground refurbishment of the Tuckingmill Decline and Old Engine shaft was underway, and later that year access was mined into New Cooks Kitchen Deep Adit level from Tuckingmill Decline. The refurbishment of the New Cooks Kitchen section was completed in October 2003 and opened to the public for tours. In 2004 mining commenced at the 10 fathom level drilling a crosscut north from the Tuckingmill Decline to New Cooks Kitchen Shaft. In 2006 equipment from the dormant Wheal Jane processing plant was purchased, and is being prepared at South Crofty to be used at a new mill there.


However during this time, the local regeneration company, CPR Regeneration, set up in 2001, has actively opposed mining plans. They wish to develop the South Crofty site, initially for a leisure centre, but latterly for a housing and business park. In 2003, 2006, and 2007 CPR threatened Baseresult with a Compulsory Purchase Order of the site, but have not yet carried out any procedures. The Trevenson Ventilation Shaft was also filled with concrete by English Partnerships, who work with CPR, in 2006, without planning permission.

Investment and prospects

Total capital investment to re-open the mine is forecast to reach £9 million by June 2008. [ [ Press Release: South Crofty website] . Retrieved 2007-11-29] With the pumping shaft complete and waste water treatment equipment being installed, dewatering is almost ready to commence as of late 2007. This will take two years, and it is anticipated the mine could be in partial production by 2009, and full production by 2011. The mine which employs 26 people as of November 2007 could employ up to 200 people directly by 2010 if plans to start production go ahead, and many hundreds more in associated jobs generated by the mine. Local support for the mine is mixed, although nearly 2,000 people attended the Open Day in support of the mine on the 8th July 2006. However others, including local councillor and former miner Mark Kaczmarek, believe that it is time to redevelop the site.

Continued controversy

South Crofty cite the reason for delays in re-commencing mining as the repeated demand by Cornwall County Council for Review of Mineral Planning Permissions (ROMPs), which the Council first requested in 2002. After three further reviews submitted by Baseresult in 2002, 2004 and 2005, the Council finally granted permission for the mine in September 2006. One month later CPR Regeneration announced that they will be applying for a Compulsory Purchase Order, and have published plans for a multi-million pound development of 150 acres including the South Crofty site.

The tin price has more than tripled in the years 2002-2007, from below $4,000/tonne to in excess of $14,000/tonne ["London Metal Exchange Cash Price", [ LME Price graph for tin] ] ., and the economic viability of the South Crofty mine, with current identified and inferred reserves of over 40,000 tonnes of tin ["USGS Tin Mineral Yearbook 1994", [ Reserve statement see p6] ] , have improved considerably. If the cost of reopening the mine estimated by Cornwall County Councillor Mark Kaczmarek, who believes the mine is unviable, is £30 million, at tin production rates of 2,400 tonnes a year, ["USGS Tin Mineral Yearbook 1998", [ Production statement see p11] ,] at the cost of approximately $7,500/tonne inflation adjusted, as achieved in 1997, and at the current tin price of near to $14,000, as of May 2007, the mine costs will be recouped in less than 5 years.

On 2 November 2007 the mine's owners announced that because of the increase in the price of tin, they would be investing more than £50 million in the mine to accelerate the plan of restarting production in 2009. [ [ Tin mine aims to re-open in 2009: BBC News website] . Retrieved 2007-11-02] A new company named Western United Mines Limited was formed to own and operate the mine. The previous owner of the mine, Baseresult Holdings Ltd. are the majority shareholder of the new company alongside Casserite LP, an investment vehicle acting for Galena Asset Management, a subsidiary of commodity trading company Trafigura. [ [ Press Release: South Crofty website] . Retrieved 2007-11-29]

On 28 November 2007 the owners of the mine successfully challenged the regeneration plan developed by Kerrier District Council for the area around the surface workings. Crofty Developments Ltd., a partner of Western United Mines appealed to the High Court on the basis that it had not been involved in the consultation process. [ [ Council Faces £100,000 write-off: BBC News website] ]

The new mining activity at South Crofty is estimated to have the potential to be productive for up to another 80 years. [ [ South Crofty website] ] However, the lack of published formal resource and reserve estimates has cast doubt as to the validity of this claim [The matter was rehearsed in an article in the national "Guardian" newspaper, 13 February 2008, "Society" setion pp.1-2: "Underground rumblings" by John Crace, available online at [ Guardian Unlimited (accessed 14 February 2008)] ] .


ee also

*Mining in Cornwall
*Camborne School of Mines
*List of topics related to Cornwall

External links

* [ Baseresult Website]
* [ CPR Regeneration Website]
* [ The geology of South Crofty Mine]
* [ South Crofty Mine Photos]
* [ BBC Cornwall News on South Crofty]
* [ Statement on South Crofty by Local MP]
* [ Crofty Headgear Picture]
* [ Crofty Campaign Poster]
* [ South Crofty Campaign]
* [ Daily updated BBC data LME Tin price]
* ['south%20crofty') Cornwall Record Office Online Catalogue for South Crofty]

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