Mining has taken place at Geevor for more than three hundred years and over the years the mine has had various names. Like many other Cornish mines Geevor has enjoyed times of success and times when operations have been suspended. After one such closure the mine reopened under the name of North Levant in 1851. Explorations were carried out seawards from Goldsworthys Shaft and in April 1867 during work on an inland section miners accidentally broke through into a flooded mine working, five workers including a 13 year old were killed.
Between this time and 1891 the mine expanded to include Wheal Bal and Wheal Carne and yet once again in 1891 mining operations came to a halt. Between 1892 and 1904 mining was continued on and off on a small scale until in 1905 the West Australian Gold Field Company Ltd. acquired the site which they renamed in 1911 brining together various mines under the name of Geevor Tin Mines Ltd. Hopeful of finding new ore lodes, in 1919 this company, sunk a new shaft called Victory near to the existing mill.
Barton in ‘The History of Tin Mining and Smelting in Cornwall” recounts that in 1918 Geevor milled 24,956 tons and employed 205 underground and 98 surface workers.
By the end of the 1950s the mine yield dropped and for the next 30 years Geevor Tin Mines explored the surrounding area to try and find new reserves. So called submarine extensions gave access to lodes not previously accessible but in 1985 the price of tin plummeted to a third of its value and in 1986 Geevor shut down. The mine was maintained on a temporary basis while a six year struggle ensued to try and get it reopened unfortunately this struggle was unsuccessful and hopes stopped altogether in 1991 when the pumps were finally turned off.
In 1992 Geevor Tin site was acquired by Cornwall County Council and with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in Spring 1993 the site was opened to the public as a museum. The Trevethick Trust continued to run the site until 2001 when Pendeen Community Heritage (PCH) a registered charity was awarded the contract for the management of Geevor. Today Geevor is the largest preserved tin mining site in Europe, and one of the largest protected industrial heritage sites in the UK.
The extract below is taken from the official website for Geevor and gives details about the guided tours and various attractions now available at the site. Two members of the Views of Cornwall Team went on the tour and found it a fascinating and educational experience. The tea shop/restaurant on the site also served excellent pasties.
“Geevor Tin Mine, the last working mine in West Penwith and now a mining museum, provides you with a unique opportunity to experience the history of this traditional Cornish industry. Although mining has ceased, Geevor has survived, and is now the largest preserved mine site in the UK, extending a mile inland from the breath-taking West Penwith coast in an area rich with natural beauty and historic interest.
A rediscovered ‘adit’ gives underground access to ‘Wheal Mexico’, a part of Geevor worked about two hundred years ago. The mine offices now house a museum telling the story of Geevor, a video film explains the method of mining the mineral rich rock and the processes of crushing and washing the ore to recover the tin-bearing cassiterite. Walking through the narrow tunnels and shafts reminds visitors of the hardships suffered in times past.
Expert guides, an under-ground tour, displays of original mining machinery and a fascinating museum bring the past to life. The whole of the site is served by a network of pathways giving access to superb cliff-top scenery and the nearby Levant Mine, recently restored with working steam beam-engine, the oldest to be seen in Cornwall.”