Great Orme copper mines

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Great Orme copper mines, near Llandudno

The copper mines in the Great Orme date back to c.1800BC. They are the largest Bronze Age mines so far discovered anywhere in the world. They were uncovered during landscaping works in 1987, and since then extensive tunnels and surface workings have been revealed.

The mines were abandoned at the advent of the Iron Age. Mining resumed at the site in the 17th century. Technology allowed water to be pumped out of the mines from a much lower depth than was possible in the Bronze Age. The copper produced was of very high quality. In the 18th and 19th centuries copper was highly in demand for the photo_of_great_orme_minescladding of the bottoms of Britain’s wooden ships, including those of the Royal Navy. By the middle of the 19th century, ships were being made of iron and the demand for copper diminished. There was also competition from cheaper foreign copper ores.

The Great Orme copper mines began to decline c.1849, but continued to produce more than 1,000 tons of ore per annum until 1861. The final mining lease was given up in 1881.

The Great Orme copper mines consist of about 8km of tunnels, galleries and shafts left by the miners. Some of the more spectacular of these, including tunnels and caverns excavated during the Bronze Age, have been opened up for the public to marvel at.

In a field nearby, to the south of the mines, you can visit a Neolithic burial chamber, from an earlier period in prehistory.

With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society, and Nick Jowett

Where is this HiPoint?

Website of Great Orme copper mines

Postcode: LL30 2XG

Other PREHISTORIC HiPoints in this region:
Great Orme burial chamber - from the Neolithic era
Prehistoric view over Llandudno from Little Orme – no sea in sight
Iron Age hill fort, Conwy Mountain - remains of a fort within a fort