The tin mines of Cornwall, by Philippa Hurst

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

[Philippa is Head of Volunteer Fundraising Operations and Planning for Cancer Research UK. She joined me on 4 September for the leg from Porthtowan to Perranporth, Cornwall, together with Jo Marriott, who heads CR UK's volunteer fund raising in East Anglia.]

Tin mine near St Agnes. Features in Poldark! Look how well they built tin mines in Victorian times!

Joining Laurence on day 81, a 9 mile stretch between Porthowen Beach and Perranporth we took in the breathtaking views of the Cornish coast. As the coastal path meandered around the sheer cliffs we came across a number of disused tin mines.



Where have those tin mines gone?

Laurence and I hunted around a particularly large ruin for an information plaque but alas it didn’t exist so here’s the facts and stats on the old Cornish tin mines.

* The Cornish word for tin is sten from the Latin stannum

* Tin mining began in Cornwall over 4,000 years ago and peaked between 1750 and 1850 when there were some 2,000 mines across the county.

* The”tinners” were regarded as special people by King John and Edward III and given unique rights and privileges.

* Tin was extracted by drilling and blasting.

* The last tin mine, South Crofty, closed in 1998 due to cheaper opportunities abroad and a decline in global tin prices.

* A Canadian company is looking to bring mining back to Cornwall. Apparently South Crofty has the best tin opportunities currently available.

* The tin mine at St Agnes was used in the BBC’s Poldark (see picture above).



Jo and Philippa navigating the narrow coastal path.

* World tin consumption has almost doubled in the last 50 years due to its use in electronics, chemical production and TOOTHPASTE!

* World tin stocks are down to circa 40k tonnes from 250k tonnes 30 years ago

* Arsenic is a by-product of the tin and copper process. 1 teaspoon of 60% pure arsenic could kill 6 people. Workers used to cover their skin with clay and mouths and nostrils with rags. Sounds safe.


Arriving in Perranporth, ready for some refreshment...

Spending time with Laurence and his incredible energy really hit home the point of his mission. Conversation by conversation, campaign by campaign, through HPV vaccinations and regular screening we can eradicate cervical cancer. Since first hearing of Laurence I have had many conversations about cervical cancer with friends, family and colleagues – a few resulting in people who had been sitting on a smear appointment request pleading to now go.

Cancer Research UK
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Cancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464), Scotland (SC041666) and the Isle of Man (1103). A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales (4325234) and the Isle of Man (5713F). Registered address: Angel Building, 407 St John Street, London EC1V 4AD.

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