South Crofty Mine was a very special place to me, when it closed in 1998 it was heartbreaking to see the effect on the local community. I had made some good friends there and I always seemed to be welcome. Good days and good times.South Crofty Mine
South Crofty Mine, the information on this page has been written by my friend Dr Nick Le Boutillier and reproduced here with his permission.
South Crofty Mine is situated mid-way between 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 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 South Crofty 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, equaling Dolcoath, and stretched from Centenary Street in Camborne to Barncoose.
South Crofty closed, controversially, in 1998 after some 400 years of almost continuous work, still possessing a significant geological resource (on paper) 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 likely stretches from days to weeks of production. In addition the main working lodes of the mine No:4, No:8, Roskear A, B and D had all failed in some manner. The Roskear A had petered out as a structure below 445fm; Roskear B had hinged in Roskear D, while the very shallow-dipping ore shoots on the Roskear D meant that rapidly decreasing strike lengths of the lode (at increasing distances from the decline turnout) were payable. No:4 and No:8 suffered a similar fate at 445fm and below and the No:8 was non-pay and flattening off in dip rapidly around 445fm, possibly to hinge into the No:4 Lode.
The South Crofty Geology Department had identified a number of known lodes to the northwest of the operating workings, which were non-pay at 360-380fm, but were projected to pass into the economic tin zone around 420fm and below. This was to be the focus of a major phase of exploration to revitalise the mine’s reserve base, but the drill crews were the first to be laid off as closure loomed and the exploration was never started.
The closure left some 2 million tonnes of ore on the books, but this is scattered like buckshot across the length and breadth of the mine. Had South Crofty been kept on care and maintenance the story could have been vastly different, but the cost of dewatering, refurbishing a point of access and secondary egress and then laying in new services would make many of these blocks uneconomic even at todays tin price. There are some identified and potentially large blocks of ground that may provide significant ore resources, but while there are varying degrees of confidence about these blocks they remain only a possibility and anyone wishing to prove them up would have to put up something in the region of £50 million to dewater the mine and service the drill crews and then fund the exploration program without a cast iron guarantee of success.
It is against this background that the mine was reopened in 2001, by which time it was largely flooded. South Crofty 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. New working, off the Tuckingmill Decline included a crosscut (at the 10 fathom level) driven north, which intersected both Middle Engine Shaft and New Cook’s Kitchen Shaft (for access & ventilation); and an exploration drive/decline 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 end of the drive is 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 needed to be de-watered before further progress could be made. In order to drill further diamond drill holes, a horizontal spur level (above water level), from the top of the ramp, was driven parallel with Main Lode to a point below Dolcoath Road in Camborne. A crosscut south intersected an old stope on Dolcoath Main Lode, adjacent to Water Engine Shaft. This was the first time anyone had seen the Dolcoath workings since the mine closed in 1920.
The plan was to eventually recommence the driving of the decline and and develop a turnout for a new level (the 60 fathom level), which was planned to run back, through Dolcoath Main Lode to Williams Shaft, where a new pumping station was to be situated. Extensive diamond drilling was 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 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). Drilling also took place away from South Crofty with a number of holes 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, however, were disappointing; the ground is highly fractured and no structures were found – it seems likely the holes passed under the footwall of the lode(s).
With an extensive mineral rights catalogue, WUM technical services contemplated plans to drill targets away from (and as possible long-term alternatives to) South Crofty. Likely candidates included the Basset mines and Wheal Alfred, but after Wheal Seton those plans appear to have been dropped.WUM, in partnership with their Canadian backers Celeste Copper Corp, planned to explore the ground between Dolcoath and the Roskear mines to the north while also exploring Dolcoath Mine and had settled on a plan to dewater Dolcoath Mine to the 60fm level and strip the mineralised walls of the old Dolcoath stopes, while damming off South Crofty to reduce water flow and pumping costs. However, these plans were halted in June 2013 when Celeste defaulted on their payments to WUM and the company went into administration. South Crofty Mine History
The future of the mine is currently uncertain and it is not yet known if any buyers or new backers will come forward.
South Crofty Mine Shaft Sections
Geological cross sections of the main shafts of South Crofty were produced: New Cook’s Kitchen Shaft, East Pool Engine Shaft and Roskear Shaft sections are shown below.
This section through NCK Shaft South Crofty was drawn by Nick Leboutillier in September 1997, using the 1:500 film level plans and plans of the surrounding mines/shallow workings. It took around 40 hours to complete and was originally input into AutoCAD (as were all of the Geology Departments drawings). In 2001 the file was converted into CDR format, this coloured version was produced in 2003. Minor corrections were undertaken in 2011.
This section through Roskear Shaft was completed in September 1997, using the 1:500 film level plans and plans of the surrounding mines/shallow workings. Roskear Shaft was begun by the Dolcoath Company in 1923, after the closure of Dolcoath Mine in 1921, and was planned to be the focus of the New Dolcoath Mine. The circular, brick-lined, shaft was sunk by shaft sinkers from South Wales and eventually reached 2000 feet deep by late 1926. Levels at 1700, 1900 and 2000 feet intersected a number of lodes and some limited stoping was done on the Roskear Complex for wolfram and tin. Though some of the lodes showed promise the company ran out of capital and attempts to raise more failed. Operations ceased in December 1929 and the company went into receivership in April 1930. South Crofty acquired all the Dolcoath assets in 1936. Unbeknown to the Dolcoath miners, had they sunk the shaft a further 200 feet they would have discovered the Roskear and Dolcoath lodes that were a major resource for South Crofty. The Roskear section was really developed from 1979 onwards after a major exploration drilling programme, and became perhaps the most important ore zone in the mine upto its closure in 1998. Many of the lodes found in the 1920’s with depth became very rich. Had they been developed it is likely that Dolcoath would have persisted into the 1990’s and bought out South Crofty rather than the other way around – such is mining! Once the Dolcoath and Roskear lodes began to be exploited Roskear Shaft became a major (updraught) ventilation shaft with large fans at the collar. Many local people remember the plume of warm moist air that rose above the shaft in Winter, visible for miles. In the early 1990’s the shaft was deepened to the 400fm level and was refurbished with a new winder house, etc, to become the mines secondary egress after the condemnation of Robinson’s Shaft in 1994.This drawing took around 40 hours to complete and was originally input into AutoCAD; in 2006 it was converted into a CDR drawing and in 2011 a new coloured version.
This section through East Pool Mine Engine Shaft was completed in September 1997, using the 1:500 film level plans and plans of the surrounding mines/shallow workings. Engine Shaft was one of East Pool’s principal shafts until a major collapse in 1921 rendered it unusable. The shaft is located close to the restored engine house at Mitchell’s Shaft (owned by the National Trust) – Mitchell’s Shaft was also partially destroyed in the collapse and was never used again. The company began a new shaft, Taylor’s Shaft, in the northern part of the sett (the preserved engine house here, by Morrison’s supermarket, is also owned by the National Trust) and found some rich lodes at depth that gave it a new lease of life. South Crofty Mine History
After East Pool closed in 1945 the sett was bought by South Crofty; in the late 1980’s exploration beneath the East Pool workings lead to the discovery of the North Pool Zone (NPZ) – a complex replacement/lode/pegmatite series of bodies, that were a major producer of rich tin ore up until the mines closure in 1998. This drawing took around 40 hours to complete and was originally input into AutoCAD; in 2006 it was converted into a CDR drawing and in 2011 a new coloured version was completed.