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The Tinner’s Coast – The Smell of Rock, Geevor Mine

I take a trip around the Geevor Mine. I have been to the mine before, but never spent time in the processing buildings or the museum.

The underground tour of Wheal Mexico, compared to other underground trips, is very dry and easy to navigate. It is interesting to see this older mine and learn about the working practices, especially around the time of the introduction of gunpowder.
It’s hard to imagine that there weren’t more terrible accidents in the mines at these times, although apparently, the life expectancy of the miners shortened drastically from 40 (when hand-drilling was the main method of extraction) to 28 when gun-powder was introduced (due to emphysema). A sobering thought. Early fuses where made from goose quills pushed one inside the other to make a hollow (and waterproof) straw which was filled with gunpowder and sealed with clay.
The whole of the Geevor site, is stained with the red iron oxide from the mined rock. The sea around the mine ran ‘Bal’ (mine) red with the waste from the processing plant, and the rocks of the cliff are stained green a fantastic read. These are the characteristic colours of this landscape.
Copper salts stain the rocks where the drainage water comes out of the mine
‘Ocean’ Pendant. 22ct gold and boulder opal
The emptiness at Geevor made a lasting impression on me, a place that was so obviously alive and now so still and deserted left me feeling a sense of loss – not only of the mining of tin but the community, identity and stronghold of the area.
The exhibition area is really interesting and has some good examples of local minerals and exhibits of tin and copper mining throughout history. A beautifully preserved wooden shovel, the grain of the wood and twist in the shape is stunning. The lamps used back from Roman times to present day. And the ingots of tin themselves which had their own assay marks depending on where they were smelted and where they were being sent to. For Christian counties, the stamp was a lamb and flag. For non Christian countries something a little less obvious although still a sign of virtue and self-sacrifice – the Pelican. (the pelican was believed to peck its own chest and feed its young on its own blood).


Victory Shaft, Geevor. Watercolour.


Stope, Geevor. Chalk on paper.


Mineral lode, Wheal Mexico


The elements of darkness, coolness, silence, limited colour and the effect of the light of head torches. Cool drips and water everywhere. The rock has a distinctive smell which is difficult to describe, it almost smells of metal. Sounds are changed, voices distant, the silence in the mines is such a contrast to how it must have been when the place was alive with work.


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