Saturday 08 August 2020

Wilderley Copper Mine

The mine is known to have operated between 1916 and 1918 but it is unclear whether significant quantities of copper ore were ever produced.

The following is based on a set of photographs of the above mine dated 1917, together with a letter and report concerned with its progress at that time. The work was being carried out by the Anglo-Rhodesia Investment Co Ltd and the Annual List of Mines shows this company as having an average of 9 men working underground and 6 on the surface. It seems that work had only recently commenced and the letter dated 30th November 1917 was an attempt to attract the Rev T R Walker and friends as investors.

We don't know if the Reverend Walker and friends were tempted to help finance the scheme but the whole operation closed the following year. By that time, the shaft had presumably been sunk to the required level but it would seem that the predicted "bonanza" was not forthcoming. It is interesting to note the proposed use of sulphide minerals in the production of sulphuric acid. The latter was used in making munitions and, during the First World War, the country obviously needed as much as possible. The note in the mining engineer's report seems to indicate that the ore was treated to produce sulphuric acid before copper extraction began. If so, this might well have been on site but it is not known what apparatus would have been used.

The photos are a useful insight of a mine in the process of being equipped. The Main Level has rails and a wooden door and, if it reached the shaft, would have been almost 1 mile long.

The main shaft was apparently on the site of an earlier adit and was being equipped when the photos were taken. The headgear had a single pulley wheel and it was enclosed within a corrugated iron building. The survey actually shows two parallel and adjacent shafts but it is not clear from the photos if both these were in the building. Nearby was the winding engine which was a steam winch, possibly off a trawler. The boiler was upright and all of these were enclosed in another corrugated iron building.

Ore appears to have been wound up the shaft in a kibble which was placed on a flat wagon and wheeled on rails out of the shaft top building. Just outside, the kibble was upturned and ore fell down a shoot onto a platform below.

Here it was treated on washing and grading tables, water coming from a large mine reservoir. Other buildings on site included an orehouse, cabin and offices. One of the photos shows the morning shift and the miners have very basic equipment. The standard method of dress was a flannel shirt, waistcoat, thick trousers, clogs and a flat cap. There is even a photo of the managing director in the company's Ford car, suitably dressed in a straw boater!

extracted from "Wilderley Copper Mine", Malcolm Newton & Adrian Pearce, SCMC Journal No.1

Surface Remains

The two shafts on the main site have been filled with rubbish. The foundations of the engine shed and office building can be distinguished but the most obvious feature is the cracked concrete reservoir.

The drainage level is in the bottom of the valley to the north. There is a large tip but the entrance has been dammed as a water supply. To the south-west is a small collapsed trial adit.