SOUTH CROFTY MINE
Mark Kaczmarek & Brian Jenkins on the croust seat. 400 fathom level, No4 Drive East at the start of the NPZ Crosscut. The 400-380 fathom ladderway (mined by Wayne Brown) is at the end of the chamber to the right of the picture Note the diamond drill collar point markings on the walls. Photo taken in 1997 by Edgar Bergstein.
South Crofty Mine is situated mid-way betwen Camborne and Redruth at Pool in Cornwall. Beginning its life as a small sett called Penhellick Vean in the 1590's, it grew as it absorbed the smaller mines around it, becoming South Wheal Crofty in 1854. Initially a shallow tin mine and then a copper mine, the mine workings went back into the deep tin zone from the 1860's onwards and copper production began to decline. In 1906 South Crofty Mine Ltd became the foundation of the modern mine. From the 1890's onwards the mine acquired other setts as the surrounding mines closed, including New Cook's Kitchen Mine, Tincroft & Carn Brea, North Roskear, South Roskear and Dolcoath Mine in 1930, to become a huge enterprise spanning nearly 4.5 km in length.
The modern mine was worked for tin, arsenic and tungsten during the early 20th century, but by the 1960's tin was the sole product. The workings eventually reached almost 3000 feet in depth, equalling Dolcoath, and stretched from Centenary Street in Camborne to Barncoose. The mine closed, controversially, in 1998 after some 400 years of almost continuous work, still posessing significant geological reserves and several tempting exploration targets; however, at the closure of the mine, production had caught up with development (very little development was undertaken during the final few months) and so the remaining mining reserve (ore immediately available for working) is very small and even this will now require very costly new services and infrastructure.
The mine was reopened in September 2001, by Baseresult Ltd, as New Cook's Kitchen Mine and was officially unabandoned. A section of the workings above adit, on North Tincroft Lode, were (as of October 2003) opened for a couple of years for tourist visits with access from the Tuckingmill Decline, before they ceased when working around the decline was initiated. In November 2007 a new company, Western United Mines (Baseresult 51%, Galena LLP 49%), was formed to finance further mining operations. Workings to date include a crosscut (at the 10 fathom level) driven north, which has intersected both Middle Engine Shaft and New Cook's Kitchen Shaft (for access & ventilation); and an exploration drive/decine driven west southwest to parallel Dolcoath Main Lode. The drive passed through The Great Crosscourse after being driven through some very challenging ground conditions (a collapse of ground at the intersection with some old workings ran through to surface and had to be plugged with concrete); it was then ramped down (at ~ 1 in 6) below the water table and is just past the 340 m mark from the top of the ramp. The drive is now close to a point beneath Church View Road in Camborne. Work on the decline was eventually halted when it was found to be surrounded by flooded workings which need to be de-watered before further progress can be made. In order to drill further diamond drill holes, a horizontal spur level (above water level), from the top of the ramp, has been driven parallel with Main Lode to a point below Dolcoath Road in Camborne. A crosscut south has already intersected an old stope on Dolcoath Main Lode, adjacent to Water Engine Shaft. This is the first time anyone has seen the Dolcoath workings since the mine closed in 1920.
If and when driving of the decline ramp eventually recommences, a turnout for a new level (the 60 fathom level) will be mined and the new level will run back, through Dolcoath Main Lode, to Williams Shaft, where a new pumping station will be situated. Extensive diamond drilling has been undertaken, using a DIAMEC drill: a short hole to the south intersected a stope on Chapple's Lode (Cook's Kitchen Mine) and a number of long holes drilled north and have intersected Silver Lode and North Entral Lode (Dolcoath) and also the subeconomic upward extensions of South Crofty's Dolcoath South Lode (carrying copper and uranium). WUM plan to explore the ground between Dolcoath and the Roskear mines to the north while also exploring Dolcoath Mine, which may be more economically viable than the main South Crofty Mine itself. Although flooded to a point at the head of the current workings (~300 feet below surface) WUM, and their new Canadian partners (Celeste Copper Corporation), continue, as they have for the last ten years, to say that they intend to restart mining; current focus is on the upper 60fm of Dolcoath Mine with a plan to strip the walls of old stopes, though it is not currently known how viable such a project would be. At the current time there are still no pumps installed to begin dewatering the mine, which is likely to take two years or more to complete. The simple truth is that until pumps are installed and working, South Crofty is not a mine, it's merely a prospect.
In addition the company has drilled, from surface, for the downward extensions of the lodes in the Seton group of mines, just to the north of Camborne. These mines, working the same set of lodes along strike, were an exploration target for both the Dolcoath and South Crofty companies, but this was the first time they had been drilled since the early 1920's (the Dolcoath company put out a long borehole north on the New Roskear 2000 foot level, which reputedly intersected one of the Seton lodes, carrying rich tin values). Results have not been encouraging; the ground is highly fractured and no viable structure has been found - it seems likely the holes have passed under the footwall of the lode(s). With an extensive mineral rights catalogue, rumours are that WUM plans to drill targets away from (and as possible long-term alternatives to) South Crofty. Likely candidates include Wheal Uny, the Bassett mines and Wheal Alfred, but that will depend on further investment.
There has been a great deal of publicity in the local, national and international press recently regarding the discovery of gold, silver, indium (I'm waiting for the day when they announce they've found cowboydium as well) and other metals, such as cobalt, at the mine, in boreholes and development headings; and the future of the mine as a polymetallic zinc, lead, copper, tungsten and tin producer. These elements are certainly all present, but the gold in particular is present in such infinitessimally tiny amounts that it is of academic interest only. As for the rest, the polymetallic ores occur mainly above adit in stope pillars which would border on impossible to remove economically, as traces in arsenopyrite (cobalt) or in borehole intercepts that would require massive development and pumping to access, and also do not yet form economically viable targets. Practically all of South Crofty's resources still lie deep under water, as they have done for the last 15 years. It is important to remember that simply stating that an element is present in a mine or prospect, is extremely far removed from having a viable mining resource and that claiming you have potential resources that in reality exist only as traces may fool the uninformed public, but not anyone else.
The current price of base metals (despite recent setbacks and price falls), driven by Chinese & Indian industrialisation, has lead to renewed interest in the metal deposits of Cornwall & Devon. The Australian company, Wolf Mining, is currently ramping up to production at Hemerdon Sn/W deposit in Devon; the access road has been completed and the final tranch of funding has been recieved. The company expects to officially move on to the site by the end of July 2013; Treliver Minerals are currently (February 2013) drilling at their skarn/replacement tin prospect at Treliver Farm north of St Austell and Marine Minerals are preparing a consultation exercise for their marine tin extraction prospect off the north coast of west Cornwall. There has also been renewed interest in Cligga Mine and Redmoor near Callington and it is likely that other Cornish tin, copper and zinc deposits will be the subject of exploration activity. Overseas; Kasbah Resources' Achmmach tin prospect (currently 14.6 million tonnes at 0.9% Sn) is at an advanced stage of development and is likely to be in production within two years. Eurotin is advancing its Oropesa (and other) tin prospects in southern Spain, where they are intersecting significant high-grade tin values over considerable distances.
I spent five very enjoyable years at South Crofty and produced and helped compile the final ore resource statement in March 1998 prior to the closure of the mine. It was a very unusual & rewarding job; it was what I'd been trained for and always wanted to do, but the place also had a very strong family atmosphere and I enjoyed the job as much for the people as for the geology. Many of my former colleagues appear in the photo pages of the South Crofty section.
Trammers David Medlen (l) and Kevin Mutton (r) on the croust seat by the 400 fathom level, No4 Drive 100mE tipping point, with Nick Le Boutillier. Waste from the NPZ Crosscut was being tipped here into an old stope, using a number of wagons and the 5-ton Clayton loco in the photograph. Photo taken in 1997 by Edgar Bergstein.
Nick Le Boutillier. Barring down in a stope - Providence Lode, 400 Fathom Level. 1996. Photo by Simon Jones.
This section contains pages on the geology of the mine, mine level plans, sections and a page of photographs taken between 1993 and 1998, and 2004 and 2009. Click on the relevant button to navigate to the page you require.
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This page last updated on 14/02/2013