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Home > Mines, Quarries & Sites > Copper Point Copper Mine

Copper Point (Virgin Gorda) Copper Mine (Virgin Islands)

The Copper Mine on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands is a National Park containing the ruins of an abandoned 19th-century copper mine.
Copper was first discovered on Virgin Gorda in the 17th century by the Dutch, but they were never able to successfully exploit it. Local legends also suggest the shafts were originally dug by Spanish adventurers to mine silver in the late fifteenth century, but no documentary evidence can be found to support this theory, and no firm evidence of Spanish occupation of the islands prior to the Dutch settlement exists, much less the size of settlement which would be needed to sink shafts.
After the islands came under British control, the Copper Mine was constructed in 1837 and its first shaft was sunk in 1838. In two separate periods over the next 24 years, 36 Cornish miners extracted ore from this site with the aid of some 140 British Virgin Islands workmen. The ore which was extracted was sent first by road to Spanish Town (the largest settlement and harbour on Virgin Gorda) along coppermine road (originally built by the miners), and then by ship to Wales and; on the return trip the ships would carry provisions, wood for construction, wages for the workers and coal with which to power their steam engine.
The mine was finally abandoned in 1862 and was never reopened. Parts of the original stack, the engine house and the main building are all that remain.
No plans are known to exist of the workings, however it was recorded that by 1869 they were at a depth of 40 fathoms (240 feet) and that the levels extended under the sea.

The beam engine at the Virgin Gorda copper mine is the oldest surviving Cornish beam engine in the world. The engine and beam were manufactured by the Perran Foundry, Cornwall, in 1836 and brought to the site in 1840 having previously worked at a mine in Cornwall. The beam is presently located on the beach in Handsome Bay, Virgin Gorda.

The engine was of typical Cornish construction with a cylinder of 40 inches. It was the workhorse of the mine, being used to pump water from the mine, raise the copper ore up the shafts and to power the ore-dressing machinery. A Cornish boiler produced steam to drive the engine. These boilers were the first to use high-pressure steam and were invented in 1815 by the Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick.


Link to some photos.

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Last updated August 7th 2008 by carnkie
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Last updated August 7th 2008 by carnkie

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