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We are open Sundays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm

Our History

The story behind Geevor

Reference is made in 1883 in the Mining Journal to Wheal Geevor, a small mine joining North Levant.

During the period of the Boer War, at the turn of the 20th century, a group of Cornish miners returned  from South Africa and took up a lease on the property to prospect the mine, which produced satisfactory results. In 1905 a new syndicate was granted a 50-year lease.

In 1906 the mine was registered under the name of North Levant and Geevor Limited, formed by the West Australian Gold Fields Ltd.

In 1911 the Company became Geevor Tin Mines Limited with a capital of £150,000 to acquire and work 3 mines, North Levant, Geevor and and Wheal Carne. The mine 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 underground 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 underground pumps that had kept the mine dry were switched off in May 1991, and Geevor was allowed to flood.

More months of agony and indecision followed as the surface mchinery 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 Museum

The work of adapting the old mine offices and creating a 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. For the next 3 years Cornwall County Council ran the site directly with the Trevithick Trust acting as curatorial advisors. In 1996 the County Council entered into a lease agreement with the Trevithick Trust to manage the site and advise the Council on its development. The 5-year lease agreement came to an end in 2001, and after a tendering process, Pendeen Community Heritage (PCH), an independent locally-based charity, was successful in its bid and gained a 3-year contract for the management of Geevor. PCH was later successful in subsequent bids, and has been managing the site continuously since 2001.

Over the next few years PCH focused on developing the visitor experience with visitor numbers increasing considerably. However, it became clear that significant investment would be required to ensure the survival of the site. Many of Geevor’s buildings had received no significant maintenance whatsoever for many decades, with the extensive mill and other buildings becoming increasingly derelict.

The museum and other existing interpretation facilities, set up on a shoe-string budget in 1992/3, were recognised as no longer suitable for a growing visitor market, and whilst Geevor had been put forward as a World Heritage Site Key Centre – one of three locations in Cornwall and west Devon at which the newly-inscribed World Heritage Site would have overarching interpretation. If Geevor was to have a future, extensive conservation works to many buildings and brand new, professionally-designed interpretation would be required.

In July 2007, successful applications for £3.4m million grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Objective One allowed work to begin on the major conservation work.

The other major element of the project was the creation of a brand-new museum of hard rock mining on the site. Rather than constructing a new building from scratch, the decision was taken to construct the new museum as a free-standing structure within an existing empty building – the Top Fitting Shop, where underground locomotives and machinery had previously been repaired.

From the outside, this building looks almost unchanged from the original– inside, it provides a full range of modern interpretation facilities over 2 floors, allowing the explanation of the geological background, technical and social history of Geevor, a mineral gallery and cinema showing a film of the mine when it was working, in ways which are accessible to a wide range of visitors.

With visitor numbers continuing to increase PCH identified funding to further develop the 18th century Wheal Mexico Mine visitor route. Study of old mine plans led us to believe that 2 tunnels, extending from the original visitor route opened in 1995, connected approximately 50 metres further inland and passed through particular mining features . These tunnels had become blocked by sand, gravel and clay washed into the workings over the previous 200 years.

Following success with the funding bid a local mining company carried out the excavation work to re-open the tunnels and carry out essential ground support work, and with the installation of new lighting, the extended route was opened to visitors in 2011.

Further improvements to the visitor experience have occurred over the years making Geevor Tin Mine one of the top Industrial Heritage attractions in the United Kingdom.