Amlwch and the Celebrated Mona and Parys Copper Mines

Corrected and enlarged; Printed by Enoch Jones, Wrexham Street, Beaumaris:    1848

Amlwch is the most extensive Parish in the County of Anglesey, North Wales. The town stands in a valley, bounded on the South East by St, Eilian’s mountain, on the South by the celebrated Copper Mines, on the North West by the Ddinas (or Citadel), on the North by the Irish Channel.

We cannot pass by the Ddinas without making the observation that it was at this place the Romans first invaded Anglesey, this being the strong Fort of the Druids where they defended the Nuns, from which the origin of the vicinity's name took place - Llanlleiana, viz. the resort of abode of Nuns. Several human skeletons of considerable size have been found in the immediate neighbourhood, which confirms that it must have been at one time a scene of a long continued and desperate warfare. The firm of Messrs Parry & Jones discovered a skeleton 7 feet 6 inches in the locality.

"Here their place of abode,
Here, their site of battle,
But now the place of graves
Of our warlike ancestors."

Numerous traces of their defence are yet visible; as well as a part of the Nunnery Wall. The last battle of the Druids was fought here.

"How their last resource - this mountain tower,
Where weeping freedom -from the contest fled,
And Cambria saw her dearest heroes dead.'

But to return to Amlwch, this town derived its name from Aml (often) Llwch, a collection of water, or also of lakes, which is synonymous with ‘Llyn’ except that the latter is a familiar word and has a more general sense, being applied to large expanses of water, or to ponds, or pools, or rivers; for instance, Llwch Tawe, Llwch Tawdde, and Amlwch are lakes in Wales; Tal y Llychan and Llan Liwch places so called as being near lakes. Amlwch in former times was encompassed with pools of water, from which, evidently it derived its present name. The climate of this district; is remarkably healthy, and the inhabitants long lived, which may be inferred from the fact that out of a population of 3,373 (the last census of 1841) there were 19 persons above 90 years of age, 27 above 80 and- 35 above 70 years old. It is not our intention to enter into a description of the features of the town and neighbourhood, which derives it's importance from the celebrated mines; these we shall now attempt to describe.

 

THE MONA AND PARYS MINES

These celebrated mines, which were discovered in the year 1768 and are still worked with profit and spirit, highly merit a visit from the pedestrian, the mineralogist, and the admirer of nature.

'The quantity of Copper’ says Mr Hawkins 'which these mines poured into the market for twelve years in succession, from 1773 to 1785,made such an impression as to lower the price of that metal throughout Europe and to threaten the ruin of all the poorer mines in the kingdom’.

About the year 1785, the annual produce of the Mona and Parys Mines amounted to 3,000 tons of cooper, and in that year the aggregate produce of all the mines of Cornwall was not more than4,434 tons. Ten years afterwards, these mines fell off more than a third, and in 1817 they did not yield more than 350 tons. Shortly afterwards, by the able management of Mr Treweek the present agent of Mona Mine (the Mr. Vivian’s agent) the produce was raised to more than 600 tons, and in 1826 was as much as 758 tons. It has since declined.

The scene differs in appearance and grandeur from any other copper mine in the world, for, on the first discovery of these mines, the ore was not found as in other mines, to be in veins, or lodes, but in large conglomerate masses, which admitted of being raised like the workings of an open quarry, and are thus exposed to the present day. They thus exhibit a most romantic wildness of character, which appears to the visitor as if nature had played her gambols, and, in lieu of other amusement, had tossed the rocks and hills about in sport.

"...................... and laugh to scorn,
All the proud boast of art in various colours;
Uprear’d, barren and bleak, as if in contempt
Of vegetable laws."

The excavations in these mines are immense, as may be inferred from the fact of there having been, at one time, a stock of 44,000 tons of ore lying on the surface, and, at the most flourishing period, it is computed that 80,000 tons of ore were extracted from these celebrated mines, which, at that time commanded the market of the world. The open excavations, worthy of notice are the Hill side and the Open Cast, the former fell in with a tremendous crash about fifty years ago, in consequence, the pillars that supported the surface work having been blasted for the valuable portion of ore they contained. Many years of assiduous labour have, however, partially cleared the fallen rubbish away, which has exposed to open day the most extensive field for mineralogical research known. The unconnected and broken appearance of the rocks, and diversity of colours in strata, layer, and veins, coupled with the busy working of the miners, blasting the adamantine rock, some ascending from the caves, others descending with lighted torches several scores of fathoms to shafts below,

‘Their rugged path,
And prospects, oft so dreary and forlorn,
Moves many a sigh at the disheartening depth.'

impress on the mind admiration of that Power which created with a word, and by whose will Creation with it's wonders exist. Not even Adam, when he scanned -the works of the Deity, and chanted the praise of his Creator, tuned his soul with a sight more sublime. With him we would raise our feeble notes -

'These are Thy glorious works,
Parent of good.'

The other excavation is the Open Cast, where the most lucrative ore was obtained. The descent to the stupendous geological amphitheatre is easy, and will repay the curious. The spectator will find himself surrounded with layers of ochre and calcareous earths, subterraneous cavities, different lodes, veins, strata, headings, hangings, adits, large broken tumblers, loose racks, some of which have borrowed their colours from vitriolic salts, and others that have been crystallised by the properties of the noted mineral waters.

At the bottom of the Open Cast are several shafts, the deepest of which - the engine shaft - is 120 yards. There are other deeper shafts in the Mona Mine, viz. the Pearl Shaft which is upward of 200 yards in depth, with an engine of 20 inch cylinder. Among the surface curiosities of these mines are the roasters, or kilns, where the process of calcining, for the purpose of extracting the sulphur from the ore, is carried on. When these kilns are full, timber is applied and ignited, and in 48 hours the ore takes fire, and smouldering slowly disengages sulphur, which is carried- by means of flues to a chamber connected with the kilns, this process lasts from six to ten months, according to the quantity of ore operated upon. The subterraneous architecture in the workings of these mines is sublime and extensive, and, of late, several Druidical Works have been discovered, which have added an additional interest to the antiquities of them.

In these workings, large stones were discovered, evidently used as hammers, with several pieces of timber and charcoal ready to be ignited, which were, in ancient times, successfully used in mining operations before the invention of gunpowder - fire calcined stones and they easily became scattered with the rustic tools then in operation. A plate of copper, weighing 50 lbs was found exterior to the opening of the modern mines, which fully attests that the minerals in the vicinity of Amlwch had attracted the notice of a generation remote from our own.

Gunpowder makes it's way much further; the manner in which it is used in blasting at these mines is the best and most effectual ever discovered. The simple instruments used are the auger, hammer, pricker, mallet, stamper, and scraper. The auger is two feet long, steeled at the end, shaped like a quiver or wedge; the manner of using this instrument is thus - the miner grasps it with the left hand, turning it continually round, while the other arm forces it with blows from a hammer about 6 lbs weight; they occasionally pour some water into the hole; when this is done, to the depth of 14 to 18 inches, they dry it with a rag, and put into the hole a brown paper bag containing about 5 oz of powder. When the powder is thus fixed, the pricker is passed down to the bag, and the hole filled with small stones, clay, etc. rammed down as tight as possible ; this being done, the pricker is displaced, a stiff straw filled with powder is then passed down, which is primed with a match which the miner ignites with an old rope match. Before the using of these paper bags, great mischief occurred in the going off of the blast by a spark caused by the striking either against the instruments or the rock itself. When the ore is thus blasted it is conveyed in barrows to the mouth of the shaft, there put into large wooden tressels, called kippies, and drawn to the surface by a whimsey of two horse power, from the various depths of 100 to 200 yards. In the Mona Mine there are 16, in the Parys Mine 6 to 8 of these are in continual work.

After the ore has been brought to the surface, it is wheeled to a commodious sect to be broken; for this operation the miners use the phrase ‘rapscaling' this being done, it is conveyed to tents, each containing 10 to 20 'copper ladies' whose occupation it is to break the ore into lumps of about one inch in size, at the same time collecting as much waste as possible from the ore. The appearance of these women called 'copper ladies' is very singular; they sit in a row before a square block of iron, on which they break the copper ore; the fingers of the hand which grasps the ore are covered with iron, while the other gaily handles a hammer of about 4 lbs in weight, and thus they merrily toil. The copper thus broken is carried to the kilns for calcining as before mentioned. The copper waste which is thrown aside by these 'ladies' is washed by numerous groups of boys, whose lynx-eyed quickness in selecting the copper from the waste is truly astonishing. The celebrated mineral waters of these mines are found to hold a solution (in solution) a great portion of sulphate of copper.

No. 1 or Blue Vitriol. This is caused in the following manner - in a decomposition of the ore by the action of the air, and the water changing the sulphur into sulphuric acid, which enters into a new combination with the copper, which is recovered at these mines by the following process

Extensive dams are erected to contain the water as it is poured up by the several -steam engines on the mines. Immediately under these dams are ranges of square pits, filled with old iron and the chippings, which are imported to these mines from all parts of the kingdom. The water is then made to flow from these dams to the pits, where several old miners are employed in agitating the remnants of old iron etc, thus a slow and continued action takes place by which the iron is gradually dissolved, which takes place owing to the acid having a stronger attraction for iron than for copper, quits the latter and combines with the former, leaving in the first pits a red oxide of copper, yielding a standard of 4 to 5 cwts. The water is run off, after being reduced to a standard of 7 or 8 grains, into large and shallow pools, when it is strongly impregnated with sulphate of iron. In 10 to 12 months a precipitation of iron takes place in these pools, which, being collected and dried, is sold as yellow ochre, large quantities of which is manufactured into Venetian Red at the St. Eilian Paint Works, near the spot. The precipitation of copper is on a very expensive scale; once in two or three months the mineral water is diverted for a time, when 'the remnants of the unoxidised iron are taken out, and the precipitation removed to be kiln dried ready for the smelting operation. The mineralogical workings of those mines were formerly guided by three lodes running East and West, called Garreg-y-Ddol , Hillside and Cerrig-y-Bleiddiau. In the two former, the indication is a hard, flinty rock, for which the miners are paid from 10 to 18 per fathom for driving through six square feet; the latter lode abounds in blue slate or matrix. The geological problem existing here as to the relation between the contents of the vein and the nature of the neighbouring rock, the occurrences of certain cross veins, etc. with the combined registration of several other phenomena observed in these mines, are too difficult to be solved particularly in the Parys Mine, where the precise connection of mineralogical phenomena existing in other copper mines here is desideratum, which the last and most recent discovery made fully attests. Where there are no actual indication of lodes, or proper strata, the investigation and discovery of copper depends upon a particular sagacity or an acquired habit of judging from certain signs that metallic bodies are contained in some part of the earth not very far off - a small quantity of oozing mineral water was observed flowing from the rock (termed in mining phrase ‘weeping water’), this was followed, and was the only guide that remained of the adventureous miner with the perseverance of several months, and of driving fathom after fathom quite to the North of all the other lodes, at last they were greeted by the opening of a stupendous body of copper, which fully proves that the principle of which the success of their operations did not depend on, or was guided by any geological symptoms, but proceeded entirely from following the oozing water. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, discoveries on a most extensive scale have been made, and it will, we think, be long ere the invaluable practical skill and experience of our mine agents, can be replaced by the torch of science in understanding the nature of this irregular heterogeneous body of minerals. The local circumstances of these mines are so various, and the irregularity and complexity of mineral deposits so great at present, that a corresponding diversity must exist in the means adopted for exploring them. Although the general principle and general features of Mona and Parys Mines are the same, yet the lodes are more distinct and are not exactly suitable in the direction of their mining operations. When we view the geological causes and effects, which the present aspects of these mines present, it is evident that some great convulsive movement or volcanic excitement must have existed here, which, on a minute inspection in the neighbourhood of Garreg-y-Ddol, will bear -to the mind a conviction that a critical combination of phenomena must have opened an access to the interior energies of some latent heat.

The due performance of the immense amount of labour requisite in these mines, lies in letting the whole by a system of contracts, which effectually unites for a while the interests of the miner with his employer; which, being renewed every two months continually, allows of that adjustment which the fluctuating circumstances of the mine may require. On the quarter’s ending, the usual period of making new arrangements, all previous bargains have expired, both parties are free to regulate their contracts. Previously to this setting day, every part of the mine is visited and carefully inspected by the underground agent, who consult together and determine their plans of operation for the ensuing two months. On the day appointed for the setting (as it is termed) the men who usually work at the mine, together with others who may wish for employment, assemble in the mine yard, where, on a converted platform, the head agent appears; every piece of work that is to be performed in the mine is then called out in succession, and accurately defined; then the miners make out a. proposition for working it on certain terms. The price thus offered is usually more (in the first place) than would be fair, or that the miners themselves expect to get; consequently, the moment a price is named, another offer will be made somewhat lower, and so on, until fair terms have been proposed, when the competition will cease, and the work or bargain is taken; a small pebble is thrown from the platform to the last and lowest bidder, whose name is registered opposite to it's description in the setting book. There are some cases when the competition is so great among the bargain takers, that they seldom even get good wages; but in most cases, a privilege is given to old bargainers. The agents find it requisite to adopt a plan for binding the men to their work, so that it should not be capriciously given up previously to the expiration of the two months.

We are now particularly speaking of ‘tut work’ which is to drive levels, sink shafts, etc., they are paid so much a fathom, according to the work, and this is more necessary, owing to 'the fluctuation of hardness incident to the veins, or the rock which they may be working on; sometimes the miner finds himself unable to realize the amount of wages, or anything like what is anticipated. The charge, sometimes, indeed is so great that it is not worth while going on with the work; but to meet the contingency, the underground agents only let one fathom at a time, and advancement is made in the price in such cases; should the change become favourable to the miners, the advantage is taken vice versa. The tribute work is quite different from the tut work. These two species of employment, by an excellent division of labour in these mines, are kept entirely separate, and performed by different individuals, who in time acquire great skill and judgement in their particular operations. In ‘tribute work' the quality of the ore raised is a consideration equally important with it's quantity; the miner receives an actual percentage on the value or standard the ore will produce, which is regularly analysed or essayed by competent chemists on the spot. In the meantime, the quality and quantity is judged with great precision every fortnight, by dressing the surface work agents, so that a subsistence may be paid on account, until a settlement is effected at the quarter's ending. When the standard of the produce is made known, then a balance for or against the miner is declared; this necessary discipline is kept over the large number of men that are employed in our mines.

There are extensive alkali and bleaching works carried on with great spirit in the Parys Mines, and at the Port, by the proprietor, Mr. Hills, who consumes the sulphur which has lain dormant for years in stupendous waste heaps. The process of calcining copper is likewise carried on in these works to some extent.

In conjunction with the Mona Mines, smelting of the ore is carried on, on a very extensive scale in the smelting works in the town; 20 furnaces are in full operation built of the Beecher's system called cupol or supolpr, reverberatory furnaces. These furnaces are so contrived that the ore is melted not through coming into immediate contact with the fuel, but by the reverberations of the flame upon it. Each furnace is charged with 14 cwt of ore which smelts for four hours, and yields, on a general average about 40 per cent of pure copper. These furnaces are divided into : 6 roasters, 6 ore furnaces, 3 calciners, 3 precipitates and 2 refiners. The processes are conducted in the following order:

1. The ores are calcined.

2. The calcined ore is melted.

3. The metallic mixture from process 2 is calcined.

4. The calcined course metal from process 3 is melted.

5. The purer metal from process 4 is calcined.

6. The metal calcined from process 5 is melted.

7. The copper from process 6 is roasted.

8. Course or blistered copper is refined.

The charge of calcining in process 1 is from 3 to 3 tons of ore, and the calcining lasts 12 hours. In the 2nd process the melted matter is let out at a hole opened in the side of the furnace into adjoining sand pits, where it becomes granulated, that is cools in the form of coarse pigs. This granulated metal is subjected to calcinations and fusions alternately, as above, until it comes to the 7th process of roasting. The ore has now been advanced so far towards refining as to contain from 80 to 90 per cent of pure metal. In this state, the bars or pigs are put into the refining furnace and gradually melted. The surface of the metal is covered with charcoal, and a pole, commonly birchwood, is then held in the liquid metal which causes considerable ebullition, owing to the evolution of the gaseous matter and this operation of poleing is continued until the refiner ascertains, by various trials, that the copper is in the proper state of purity and malleability. The process of refining is a delicate operation and requires great care, attention and judgement on the part of the refiner. The copper sold from these works commands in the market fully 5 per ton above the market price, on account of its extreme purity and malleability.

As the produce of our mines requires fluxes for melting, ores from all parts of the world are extensively bought to assist the fusion of our native production. A faint idea as to the extent of these works may be estimated when we say that upwards of 30,000tons of coal are consumed annually.

For the accommodation of shipping, the Mona and Parys Mine Co. has excavated a harbour in the solid roc, which can receive vessels of 800 tons burthen with the flood. During high northerly winds, which drive a heavy sea up the harbour, to evade every danger on such occasion, a break-water has been constructed which contributes greatly to the safety of the shipping.

In the town there is a Literary and Scientific Society under the patronage of the Marquis of Anglesey, which is well supported. It possesses a good library and philosophical apparatus and lectures are delivered occasionally.

The principal hotels are the Dinorben Hotel, Market Place and the Castle Hotel, Peters Street, which may be mentioned as two excellently conducted commercial and posting establishments. The Jenny Lind coach leaves the Dinorben Hotel daily (Sundays excepted) during the summer months in time to meet the departure and arrival of the packets at the Menai Bridge.

We now close these hasty remarks and, for the present, take leave of the Mona and Parys Mines, with the full impression that it would prove a needless repetition to continue the attempt to realise the beauties of them to the imagination which, for their geological phenomena, picturesque boldness and grandeur of prospects, exceed all other copper mines in the kingdom.

 

MONA MINE AGENTS

Head Agent - JAMES TREWEEK, Esq., who has the general control, and conducts the financial matters of the Mona Mine and Smelting Works.

Pit-Work & Engineering - Captain T. Tiddy.

Surface & Underground Operations - Mr. J. H. Treweek.

Ore-dressing and other Departments - Captain Job.

Assay Chemist - Mr. W. G. Treweek.

Assistant - Mr. Thomas.

Principal Accountant - Mr. E. Evans.

 

PARYS MINE

 

Head Agent - C. B. Dyer, Esq., who has general control and conducts the financial affairs of this mine.

Surface & Other Departments & Underground Operations - Mr. C. E. Dyer.

Assay Chemists - Mr. H. Roberts & Mr. John Dyer.

 

SMELTING WORKS

Principal Refiner & Agent - Mr Edward Reese.

Agent for other Departments - Mr William Hughes.

Accountant - Mr. John Jones, who is likewise Collector of Harbour Dues.

 

SHAFTS IN MONA MINE

(Worked with whimsies of two horse power)

                                   Depth (in yards)

Pearl Shaft 200

Whimsey Shaft 180

Marquis Shaft 180

Treweek Shaft 180

Evans Shaft 120

Tiddy Shaft 80

Golden Venture 80

Beer Shaft 90

Lemin Shaft go

Garreg-y-Ddol 90

Black Rack Shaft 90

Glan Felin Shaft 80

(Two latter at the bottom of Hill Side)

Saunders Shaft 140

Henry's Shaft 100

Garnedd Shaft 100

Vice Royal Shaft 100

 

With 7 or 8 averaging about the same depths in the Parys Mine.

 

Finis

(Pamphlet printed by Enoch Jones, Printer, Beaumaris)