Set high on the cliffs at Pendeen, this old mine working was once the source of local employment and produced untold riches for the owners during the 19th century. It also provided tin for countless cans of baked beans, among other things, for over 50 years! Today it offers an informative look into Cornwall's industrial history while offering stunning coastal views.
This popular tourist attraction is one of the best in the area. It scooped silver in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2013/14 and received three awards from Cornwall Tourism Awards 2013/14, including Winner of Winners Award. It is the largest preserved tin mining site in the UK, covering 67 acres, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Learn about the history of Geevor Tin Mine on an underground tour
It's easy to find Geevor Tin Mine as you will see the high Victory Shaft headgear which is a local landmark. The mine began as a small “wheal” in the late 18th century when tin and copper were mined in this remote area. It was much more productive when it became the East Levant Mine and later as the North Levant Mine, which eventually closed in 1891.
On the tour, you will hear about the more recent history of the mine including how the workings pumped a million gallons of water a day out of the mine to keep the tunnels accessible. When the price of tin trebled in 1901 the mine became commercially viable again and was worked as Geevor Tin Mines. Altogether, miners dug out 85 miles of tunnels beneath the headland, following the veins of cassiterite which produced 50,000 tons of black tin along with arsenic.
The Victory Shaft was completed in 1919 and named in honour of the end of the First World War. This shaft continued even after the other shafts were mined out and closed, employing up to 270 staff in the 1960s. It finally closed in 1990, but at least one of the current tour guides actually worked in the mine before it closed.
The fascinating history of the mine, coupled with the opportunity to tour an 18th century mine, helps you to appreciate the physical hardship of miners who depended upon the mine to support their families. Unfortunately, mining frequently led to an early death for many.
Hard Rock Museum at Geevor
Tours around the extensive site are usually in small groups and include an above ground tour of the site and a separate underground tour of Wheal Mexico.
Visitors will see the huge water wheel which powered the pumps to keep the mine from flooding and can get hands-on to see how hard it is to mine the hard rock in the area with simple hand tools. “The Dry” was where miners gathered at the beginning and end of each shift and recaptures what it would have been like to be a tin miner. You can also visit the Winder House, Compressor House and The Mill.
The latest addition to the impressive museum is the Hard Rock Gallery which has both permanent and temporary exhibitions relevant to mining. There are plenty of colourful, informative exhibits to enjoy along with interactive exhibits, replica mine workings, old equipment and machinery to demonstrate how the mine operated.
Going for gold at Geevor Tin Mine
Other activities at Geevor Tin Mine include panning for gold (you need very good eyesight for this task!) and strolling along the clifftop enjoying the stunning coastline. There is a pleasant café for a pasty or more adventurous lunch, and a small gift shop.
What's great about this attraction is that it is suitable for visiting in the cooler months as most of the activities are indoors, or even underground!
We'd love to hear your comments if you have visited Geevor Tin Mine. How long did your visit last and did the attraction live up to your expectations?