Glossary of mining and ore processing terms used in Devon and Cornwall

Mining Almanack, 1849 by H. English

Mining Almanack, 1849 by H. English

Do you know your Attle from your Pril? Did you know a Cornish ton was different to a regular imperial ton? Or that the ores raised from the mine were known as Work before they were dressed? No, neither did I.

That was until I got to work on the Mining Almanack for 1849. The Almanack was compiled by Henry English, Mining Engineer under the patronage of Prince Albert, then Duke of Cornwall and Lord Warden of the Stanneries.

Mining almanack, 1849

The almanack contains, as you would expect, an array of interesting data about the mining industry of the day, as well as more general content about related industries and even a directory of the current peers of the House of Lords.

The kind of information you can get from here include original articles/essays on topics such as the jurisdiction of the Stannary Courts, the Newcastle and Durham coalfields, the science of geology and innovation in the production of iron (as opposed to hemp) rope.

It contains statistical data on engine work, foreign weights and measures for assaying, weights of various items like metal and alloy pipes, tubes and wires, directories of useful contacts, general statistics, legislation and regulation, geological information, miscellanea such as the cost of materials for the Cornish mining industry, and the ever-diverting advertisements including for one for private contracts on mines e.g. Tywarnhaile Mines belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall, geological maps, patented wire and wire rope (iron), patented safety fuse, gutta-percha rubber bands, tubing, valves and buckets.  Continue reading

Historic footage of copper mining and smelting in the 1940s

Copper mining and smelting has not undergone major technological revolutions except in terms of scale and mechanisation. This is largely because extracting the copper metal from the rock remains a complex business both in the preparation of the ore and the repeated stages of roasting, melting and remelting that takes places in furnaces. Continue reading

Long live Chile, and long live the miners!

A trapped Chilean miner from video footage (Credit: AP Photo/Television Nacional de Chile)

A trapped Chilean miner from video footage (Credit: AP Photo/Television Nacional de Chile)

Chile has been a major producer and world exporter of copper ores for about 150 years. It is currently the world’s largest producer of copper. The mines discovered and exploited in Chile contributed to the closure of copper mines in Cornwall in the mid-nineteenth century and its ores, with those of southern Australia became the pre-eminent sources for this versatile metal.

However, this efficient exploitation of arguably Chile’s most important natural asset comes at a price. Every day skillful miners work deep under the earth’s surface to extract the ores and send them to terra firma for processing. This morning, people woke up to the news that the thirty-three Chilean miners who had become trapped 4.5 miles from the mine’s entrance, and nearly a mile deep under the desert, on 5 August after a landslide, were still alive and apparently in good spirits. Television Nacional de Chile broadcast a video of the miners and Associated Press reported:

The first video released of the 33 men trapped deep in the Chilean copper mine in Copiapó, San Jose, shows the men stripped to the waist and appearing slim but healthy, arm-in-arm, singing the national anthem and yelling “long live Chile, and long live the miners!”

Video broadcast in Spanish by Television Nacional de Chile

Watch clips from the trapped miners’ video with English subtitles from the Guardian.
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