Historians believe Cornish tin has been traded in Britain for around 4,000 years, and the metal provided an income for many local families. Cornish tin mines used to be the world’s biggest source of the metal, with 2,000 mines in operation during the industry’s heyday around 1870.
However a few years later, tin was discovered in Australia and Bolivia. These mines were producing far cheaper tin, and, from 1871–81, the Cornish tin industry died. More than a third of the miners left the area due to increasing poverty, but a few mines survived.
Demand soared during World War One, but plummeted again during the 1930s. It went up again during World War Two, but by 1960 only one major mine remained.
South Crofty mine covered six square miles by 1960, and wages were high. However, many local people no longer wanted to work underground. By 1998, South Crofty shut for good.
These days you can still visit the old mines that dot the countryside throughout Cornwall. One particularly interesting site is Levant Mine, which ran 2.5 kilometers out to sea at a depth of 640 meters. If you want to visit, drive to Trewellard, near Penzance.
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