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MELLANEAR COPPER MINING COMPANY LIMITED (1876 – 1890)


(Transcribed from Russell Webber’s [1934-2017] research)

The New Mellanear Mining Company (1874–1876) was purchased, and registered under the title of the Mellanear Copper Co. Ltd with a capital of £20,000, in shares of £2 each. The purchase price was £7000, all payable in shares, with the purpose to continue the works undertaken by the late adventurers. The mine was to be drained and the rich course of copper discovered at the 78 fms level, west of the old engine shaft was to be worked.

The well known firm of Messrs. John Taylor and Sons were to be the managers and Mr. C. D. Taylor and Capt. John Hancock, after examining the mine, reported very favourably on the prospects of the enterprise and as the lodes are the extensions of the Great Wheal Alfred Mine, it was expected to be quite a productive mine if worked vigorously and well managed. The gentlemen who signed The Memorandum of Association held the following shares :-

John Taylor (250),
Richard Taylor (250),
J. Wild (100),
R. H. Taylor (50),
S. J. Wilde (150),
J. Haye (100)
P. Taylor (25).

Harvey and Co. Ltd of Hayle held 266 shares in 1883. The 10,000 shares of £2 was to raise the capital of £20,000, 5/- was to be paid as a deposit on application, 5/- on allotment of the shares, and the remainder (if required) by instalments of 5/- per share at intervals of not less than two months. The working capital at commencement was £13,000.

The Directors were Messrs. R. Henty, S. J. Wilde, John Taylor and R. Taylor. Managers - Messrs John Taylor and Sons,
Bankers – Barnetts, Hoares, Hanburgs, and Lloyd of 62 Lombard Street, London, EC and Messrs. Bolitho, Sons and Co, Penzance, Cornwall;
Solicitor – A. Pulbrook Esq.;
Secretary – W. G. Williams Esq,;
Auditor – C. Hurbatt.
The Company’s offices was at 6 Queen Street Place, London, EC.

The Purser was G. H. Taylor, and John Haye, Redruth, was appointed the local purser, later Mr Edgar Taylor was appointed Purser in 1885.
The Chief Agent of the mine was Capt. J. Gilbert, and his underground agents were Capts. Harris and Toms.
Mr E. J. St John was a Director 1880–81, and Mr W. F. Garland was later the Secretary.
The engineers were Messrs. George Eustice and Sons of Hayle.

The reserves of copper ore in the mine, when taken over, was estimated to be at least worth £35,000, and the purchase price of £7000 in shares included all leases, machinery and plant, making the mine instantly ready for forking the water, and the working capital available should be sufficient to place the mine soon in a state to yield good profits.

The Company was in possession of the mine in May 1876 and the first statutory General Meeting was held in August. The mine was drained in June, but ventilating apparatus was essential before sinking of Gundry’s shaft could continue. The water was down to the 50 fms level and another pumping lift was to be dropped to the 60 level. The mine agents reported that good progress was being made to get the mine back in working condition. Gundry’s shaft was cleared down to the 65 and a new lift was in preparation at that level. In early September the engine speed was only about 3 ½ S.P.M and the first good pile of copper ore from the pitch in the back of the 50 was drawn to the surface.

The Mining Journal reported virtually every week the details of the underground working carried out. On October 7th the mine was forked to 86 fms level, everything in Gundry’s shaft was progressing as well as could be expected and the mine was completely drained to the bottom by the middle of October. 28 men were employed driving various levels and 12 men were sinking Gundry’s shaft at £30 per fathom. The shares were paid up £1 per share by December 2nd, and the first copper ore sales from the mine was 278 tons, raising a total of £1038-1-0 were sold in January 1877.

In March 1878 it was reported that the new leases of the mine were set at 1/24th and a reserve fund was to be set up where 10% of the net profit was to be set aside. 91 men on tutwork, 29 on tribute, along with 42 men and 86 boys and girls on the dressing floors were employed at the mine. A water wheel was working the ore crusher and there was two sets of collons jiggers and new buddles at work on the surface of the mine. Later in the year Robert and John Taylor discussed the possibility of a ‘skip or cage’ for lowering and bringing the miners to grass. Such a machine would save the miner's energy which could then be expended at working on the face and it would also allow older and more experienced miner to work in the deep mine. The apparatus or cage could cost about £140 but would save 30% labour costs. A new Counting House and engine house for a new crusher were both making progress.

The mine had reached a depth of 100 fms by October 1879. A second hand powerful engine was purchased for the crusher and stone breaker and also a small engine for other apparatus on the dressing floors. The new dressing floors, west of Gundry’s shaft was approaching completion and by the end of the year it was hoped it would be in full operation.

To reduce expenses, the old engine was stopped during the summer months, which would save £80 per month, and the water would simply rise to the 100 level and would flow into the other shaft and be pumped out from there. In April 1884, the Gundry’s shaft was down to the 120 fms level. £2-4-3 had been paid in shares, which had covered the call on shares.

Mr Richard Taylor had died and his nephew Mr Robert Taylor took his place as a Director.

The price of copper was very low. By May 1885 Gundry’s shaft was down to the 130 fms level and there was evidence that the copper deposits were changing to tin deposits, but there was no stamps on the mine to treat the tin. The reserve fund would not be sufficient to purchase tin stamping machinery if necessary. The future of the Mellanear mine would seem to be largely dependent on tin since due to the very low price of copper ore it was not expected to make profits on this mineral alone. It was anticipated that tin may be met below the 130 fms level and the shaft was being sunk with that object in view. By February 1886 the mine had reached a depth of 140 fms.

An Extraordinary General Meeting was held in August 1886 to consider increasing the capital of the Company from £20,000 to £30,000. The copper market was very depressed and made it impossible to carry on without making a loss, and no profits seemed possible. It was necessary to sink the mine deeper with prospects of finding tin, rather than going on exhausting the capital. It was estimated £4,000 to £5,000 would be sufficient to test the mine for tin which was recommended by Capt. Gilbert. It was proposed to increase the capital by £10,000 by the creation of 5000 new Ordinary Shares of £2 each. These shares would be held as a security for those who advanced money on the Bonds, which it was proposed to issue bearing 10% interest, and as an inducement to those who subscribed to their bonds a certain interest would be given to the subscribers in the shape of new shares. The 10% bonds were to be newly created shares given as a bonus to the subscribers of the bonds. The proposal was seconded and carried unanimously. The mine was down to a depth of 146 fms.

In April 1887 copper was only £1-18-0 per ton, against that of £3-14-0 when the mine commended in 1876 and the price was so low as to ruin any company. The mine was developing in a way so that they would be able to realise some profits of tin, which was commanding a good price. The tin at present was not being sold, but kept back until they were able to see whether it was worth while going to the expense of putting up stamps. Due to low finances, no rock drills were to be purchased for the mine. During the second half of 1887 the price of tin ingot gradually increased to £69-0-0 a ton, with a ‘boom’ when it sold for £101-13-0 at the December ticketing. This rise allowed the mine to pay its way in 1888 but the Directors found it hard to raise capital to sink much lower due to the difficulties arising over the bonus shares. Work on the mine had been vigorously carried on but still more capital was required to sink the main shaft another 20 fms.

In November 1888 ‘ The Capital was to be increased to £42,000 by the creation and issue of 6000 Preference Shares of £2 each, and that such Preference Shares should be entitled in priority to the Ordinary Shares to dividend out of profits equal to a cumulative dividend of 10% per annum on the amount from time to time paid up, together with a further sum also out of profits by way of a bonus equal in the whole to £2 per share (such dividend of 10% having been meanwhile paid). It has further stipulated that no allotment should be made unless 2000 Preference Shares were prescribed for, and that the payments on them should be payable at intervals of at least three months’. The resolution was then unanimously adopted.

A report to the shareholders in July 1888 told them work had vigorously carried on and the accounts showed that the balance of expenditure on the mine works in the twelve months to December 1887, after deducting receipts for copper ore etc., amounted to £4163-0-7. It was proposed to raise more capital to sink the main shaft another 20 fms. Capital was required to be increased to £42,000 in November 1888 ‘ by the creation and issue of 6000 Preference Shares of £2 each, and that such Preference Shares should be entitled in priority to the Ordinary Shares to dividends out of profits equal to a cumulative dividend of 10% per annum on the amount from time to time paid up, together with a further sum also out of profits by way of a bonus, equal in the whole to £2 per share (such dividend of 10% having been meanwhile paid). It was further stipulated that no allotment should be made unless 2000 Preference Shares were subscribed for, and that the payment on them should be Preference Shares were subscribed for and that the payments on them should be payable at intervals of at least three months’. The resolution was unanimously adopted.

During April 1889 it was time to suspend to some degree the mining of copper and concentrate on tin recovery. Sometime previous it was proposed to the Debenture Holders to exchange their Bonds for Preference Shares and many did not fall in with these arrangements and it could not therefore be carried out. The Directors proposed to withdraw the Resolution which was passed in connection with the matter and the Debenture Holders who subscribed could withdraw and the matter would remain as it was before. The copper production was sufficient to pay the expenses of the mine. The Directors kept trying to search for tin by sinking the shaft deeper.

An Extraordinary General Meeting in July 1889 was held for the purpose of confirming a resolution unanimously passed at a meeting held on 20th June deciding to wind up the Company. £15,000 was needed to keep the mine afloat. The mine did not follow some mines in Cornwall, in particular Dolcoath, where excellent and abundant ores were found below the copper. On Voluntary Liquidation a little more than the original capital had been returned as dividends. Messrs. S. J. Wilde and W. F. Garland (Secretary) were appointed liquidators at a remuneration of 100 guineas. The mine overall had been an extremely disappointing one and the mine had reached the 150 fms level.

On the instructions of the Liquidators, the mine was for sale by Public Auction, on 4th February, 1889. Included in the sale was ;_

At Gundry’s.
One, 80 inch cylinder pumping engine, stroke 10 ft x 9, with the first piece of the main rod.
Five, 12 ton boilers, with fittings complete.
One, 6 inch donkey engine, balance bob, 60 ft shears, shaft tackle.
One, 30 inch cylinder rotary engine, with 30 inch crusher rolls, attached, complete.
One, 10 ton boiler.
One, 24 inch cylinder winding engine, 14 inch stroke.
Vertical engine.
Improved Patent Blake and Marsden’s stone breaker.

At Old engine shaft.
One, 70 inch cylinder pumping engine, stroke 11 ft x 8.
Four, 10 ton boilers, with fittings complete.
10 Horse power, 10 ½ inch cylinder portable engine.
14 inch stoke.

Gundry’s floors – pumps, wind bore, stuffing glands, etc.
Gundry’s shaft – H pieces and door, pitch pine, rods, etc.
Dressing floors – timber, riddles, jiggers, etc.
Smith’s shop – Anvil, forge, crane, bellow, hand tools.
Carpenter’s shop – benches, timber, tool chests.
The Old Count House.

The balance bob was sold, and the 80 inch engine was not sold and remained at Mellanear until 1896, when its value set at £300. It was broken up at the mine site. The 24 inch engine was dismantled and brought home to Harvey and Co. Ltd, at Hayle, where it was also broken up for scrap. The engine house for the 76 inch engine was taken down in 1891, but what happened to the engine it housed is not known.

Mining sites were very dangerous places to work and with a large workforce employed, both below and above ground, some accidents were inevitable, and such was the case with Mellanear Mine. John Pascoe, aged 16, of Mendowas, Deveral, was killed in October 1878. He was crushed while oiling a bearing on the engine, his clothes becoming caught in the machinery. He had not been given orders to oil the bearing and the Coroner passed a verdict of Accidental Death.

In March 1878 a man called Rodda was seriously scalded with steam. ‘He was standing on one of the boilers, near the safety valve, when the engine man thoughtlessly took off weights of the valve to reduce the steam pressure in the boiler, without in any way giving poor Rodda any warning of what he was going to do. He was badly scalded about the head and face, and was immediately taken to the Doctor to have his wounds dressed, in a dreadful state of suffering’.

Again in September 1879, Peter Bennetts, senior, aged 63 was fatally injured and he died 20 hours later. The deceased and his son were working together in the 90 fms level and were fastening a stage near the bottom of the level, and 6 or 7 tons of stuff suddenly fell upon them from above striking the father on the head and shoulders, and carried him down about 6 fms. He sustained server internal injuries from which he ultimately died. The son was not greatly injured. A verdict of ‘Accidentally Killed’ was returned. Many other accidents would have occurred over the years but the above examples gives an indication of the dangerous work carried out at the mine.

Employment – For the years 1878 – 1889, there was an average workforce of 227 persons employed at Mellanear Mine. This was made up of men working on the tribute or tutwork systems below ground, and men, boys and girls working at the ore dressing floors above ground level. On average 108 men (or 47.5%) worked below, whilst 119 persons (or 52.5%) worked above ground. The greatest number at work at one time was 300 persons during the year 1881, and the lowest 88 in the year of closure of the mine, 1889.