The early history of the mine - like most others in Cornwall - is obscure. The first documented reference to Dolcoath was in 1738. Even during the 18th century, this was a deep mine - workings were down to 290m by 1780, and the mine was already complex and extensive at surface, water power being of particular importance for pumping and winding with leats (some in a shallow tunnel system) being brought into the site over long distances from both east and west. Dolcoath was also very early (by 1758) equipped with the new atmospheric steam engines. The collapse of the Copper Standard during the 1780s forced its closure; it was reopened in 1799 and continued to produce copper until the mid 1840s.
Dolcoath weathered the slump in copper prices of the late 18th century brought about by the development of the Parys Mountain sulphide deposit on Anglesey, and continued to develop in depth - reaching 500m below surface by the 1820's. By the 1840's, however, the copper reserves were economically almost depleted, and following the example of the Carn Brea mines to the east, the adventurers extended the mine ever downwards in search of the tin that was likely to lie below. The finding of massive, rich lodes of tin in depth ensured that the second century of activity at Dolcoath was quite as rich as the first, and the mine became a byword for Cornish Mining - a blue chip concern of the first order.
It was said of the mine in 1876 "the deeper it goes, the richer it gets". The engine houses and other buildings of the mine stretched from Valley Shaft in the east to Stray Park Shaft in the west, tramways and leats connecting the dispersed production sites to the massive dressing floors which sprawled down the slopes of the Red River Valley and along its base. Development continued ever downwards. In the 1870's, the Stray Park workings had been re-developed, and in 1895 the mine was re-structured as a limited Liability Company, soon acquiring Carn Camborne, Camborne Vean and Camborne Consols mines (part of Dolcoath West). In 1886 the main lode was at least 18' in width, and showed no signs of bottoming out. It must have seemed at that time that Dolcoath's fortunes would inevitably continue in the same expansive and successful fashion into the foreseeable future. This was not to be the case, however.
Despite the re-development of old production shafts, the sett was dispersed, the shafts were massively deepened versions of those which had been in use for nearly two centuries, much of the surface plant was old fashioned, and Dolcoath, though rich, was poorly-suited to face the challenges of a growing and aggressive international tin market. The sinking of a new vertical production shaft on Carn Entral (William's) to intersect the main lodes 1000m below the surface and some redevelopment of the surface plant in the last years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century came too late, in the event. With a decline in the quality of the ore grade and almost insuperable difficulties in working such a dispersed deep sett (Dolcoath was the deepest mine in the county, and by 1914 had some 70 miles of underground levels), Dolcoath could not survive, and closed in 1921. An attempt was made to reopen and develop the northern portion of the sett from a new shaft at Roskear in 1923, but this met with little success. The sett was acquired by South Crofty in 1936. This was taken from cornish-mining web site.
Bibliography: Dolcoath: Queen of Cornish Mines, T.R. Harris (1974)
An article taken from The Cornish Magazine 1898 by Albert Bluett. Photos by Burrow.