The story behind Geevor
The exact date when mining began in the area eventually operated by Geevor is unknown - but in the old workings in the Wheal Carne section there is a date of 1791 cut into the wall of the adit (drainage) level.
During the period of the Boer War, at the turn of the 20th century, a group of Cornish miners came home from South Africa and took up a lease on the property to prospect the mine, which produced satisfactory results.
Eventually, in 1911, Geevor Tin Mines Limited was formed. The mine, at that time, was served mainly by the Wethered Shaft (named after the then chairman of the company), on which sinking had started around 1910, with ore also being obtained from the neighbouring Wheal Carne shaft and workings to the east.
As workings were developed to the west of Wethered Shaft, it became apparent that the future of the mine lay in this direction. Accordingly, the sinking of Victory Shaft was commenced in 1919 at a point approximately 500 metres to the west of Wethered Shaft.
Wethered Shaft remained in production until 1944 when hoisting was discontinued, and the aerial ropeway used for transporting ore from the shaft to the Geevor mill, situated at Victory Shaft, was taken down.
All of the ore from underground and most transport of men and materials was now done via Victory Shaft. Initially sunk to the 5th level, the shaft was successively deepened eventually reaching its final depth of 1575 feet (480 m approx.) in 1975.
The series of tin-bearing lodes worked at the Victory section of the mine had been fully developed by the 1960’s, and in order to continue production further reserves had to be found, and so the old mines adjoining the property were investigated.
During this period, at Levant Mine, it was discovered that a breach had occurred from the seabed into the upper levels of the mine after its closure in 1930. It was therefore obvious that the reopening of this mine would pose considerable difficulties.
Around this time tunnelling towards Boscaswell Downs Mine to the north east was commenced, and eventually Simms Lode (named after a former chairman and managing director of the company) was discovered some 600 metres from the main series of workings. To create a second means of access into the mine, an old shaft of the Boscaswell Downs Mine, Treweeks, was re-opened. This section of the mine was now developed and mined while the breach of the seabed at Levant Mine was plugged and sealed.
Following exploration work in Levant Mine a decision was taken to reopen the mine. Victory Shaft was deepened and a sub-incline shaft was developed from Victory Shaft into Levant so that mining under the sea bed was being carried out again.
This shaft was developed from 15 level at Victory Shaft at an angle of 25 degrees below the horizontal to exploit the tin-bearing lodes in the mine, and was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on November 28th 1980. The shaft eventually reached 21 level (2100 feet or 630m below the elevation of the surface at Victory Shaft) before low tin prices prevented completion of the shaft to its final depth.
In October 1985 the sudden fall in the world price of tin resulted in ‘the tin crisis’. The price for metallic tin plummeted overnight from £10,000 per tonne to £3,400. Without financial assistance no Cornish tin producer could survive the crisis.
In April 1986 – in a blaze of publicity, protest and emotion – Geevor Tin Mine closed.
However, a few months later a new managing director recruited workers to remove the broken ore, which still lay in the stopes. This was to be the last operation before the pumps were to be switched off and the mine allowed to flood. Approximately 44,000 tonnes of ore was removed.
But this was still not the end for Geevor. With the appointment of a new chairman in October 1987 a rescue programme was put into effect. The following months saw preparations begin for the re-opening of the mine for full production. At this time, new development to open up new reserves was out of the question with the price of tin still below £4,000 per tonne, but it was estimated that stope pillar recovery and tramming could provide sufficient ore for up to 7 years at the prevailing low tin price.
On January 30th 1988, Geevor went back into production. With less than 100 miners and a weekly target of 2,000 tonnes of ore hoisted, it would not be an easy task. The tin price picked up, miners returned from Australia, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Canada, South Africa and several parts of this country. Production gradually increased, and by late autumn the mine was in profit. Subsequently, the tin price fluctuated rapidly rising to over £6,000 per tonne, before again dropping disastrously to well below £3,000.
On February 16th 1990, Geevor went onto a’ Care and Maintenance’ programme with only a skeleton staff, and all the miners were laid off.
Finally, with no sign in the improvement in the tin price, the pumps were switched off in May 1991, and Geevor was allowed to flood.
More months of agony and indecision followed as the surface plant that represented so much to those that felt deeply about the old mine was either sold or cut up for scrap.
At this stage Cornwall County Council stepped in and made the wise decision to purchase the site. Many people locally believed that the mine could be developed into a ‘Mining Heritage Centre’, which would eventually create jobs in a very depressed area.
The work of adapting the old mine offices and creating the museum was done by a group of volunteers, mostly ex-Geevor employees, who worked throughout the winter of 1992/3 with no heating or mains power with a dogged determination to make it happen.
Geevor Tin Mine Heritage Centre opened in August 1993.
Since then much work has happened on the site resulting in Geevor Tin Mine now being one of the top Industrial Heritage attractions in the United Kingdom.