Thursday, 13 September 2018

Exploring Cornwall's mining heritage with the Julian Baring Scholarship Fund

Established in 2000, the Julian Baring Scholarship Fund was created in the name of well-known gold fund manager, Julian Baring, in celebration of his two great passions - mining and Africa.
The advisors to the fund, with the support of the industry and those in it, endow annual scholarships for talented, but financially disadvantaged, African students to continue their studies and pursue a career in the competitive mining industry.
The Fund has come a long way in the thirteen years since inception thanks to the hard work and support of both trustees and friends. In 2006, the Fund was given a major boost when it was generously awarded 1% of the initial equity in WitsGold. This has provided a fantastic base and security for the Fund’s future and means that it can begin to look at expanding its scope, both in terms of numbers of students supported and at different levels of their education and potentially its geographical spread.
The JBSF has undertaken several fundraising events since its inception in 2000. Some of these have involved the trustees and friends of the Scholarship putting their physical fitness to the test.  This week, over three days, and with the help of Cornish Lithium, the team is walking along the old tramways and coastal paths that cover the county made famous in the TV series of Poldark.

I took part in today's event, also sponsored by Strongbow Mining, who are reviving the famous South Crofty Mine, and who hosted a visit to their operations. South Crofty is a very old mine, which finally closed in 1998, but is scheduled to reopen and go into full production again in 2021. Well known as a deep tin mine, South Crofty was formerly worked in its shallower depths for copper, and we had a fascinating tour of the ancient stopes, some dating back to the 16th century. 

Up "to grass" today, and in the 1890s
Following lunch at South Crofty, the afternoon was spent walking part of the Great Flat Lode Trail. The Great Flat Lode is an enormous ore-body dipping at an angle of between 10 and 45 degrees, situated in the Camborne-Redruth area. The mines in this area, including South Crofty, helped to provide employment at a time when the rest of the Cornish mining industry was in decline. As the copper ores became exhausted in about 1870, the mine owners explored deeper, finding high quality tin concentrations underlying the copper. This gave the mines of the Great Flat Lode a new lease of life. After some of the companies amalgamated in the late 1890's the mines continued producing until about 1918. The Great Flat Lode Trail encompasses all the major mines of the Camborne-Redruth area, running in a 7.5 mile circular trail around the granite hill of Carn Brea. It includes the site of Cornwall's greatest mine, Dolcoath (posting of 3rd August 2015),  once the world's biggest producer of copper. As with most of the mines, in the late 19th century it became a tin mine, becoming, at 3000ft,  the world's deepest tin mine, but modern development has left little trace of this mighty operation.

At South Wheal Frances Marriot's shaft
It was sad to see the site of the West Basset Stamps almost impenetrable now due to recent years of neglect. This was always a favoured visit for MEI Conference delegates, but no more alas. Hopefully some local society might take it upon themselves to restore this site, probably one of Cornwall's most important archaeological sites.
Nature has virtually taken over the West Basset Stamps
West Basset Stamps a few years ago
Jeremy Wrathall and Richard Williams,
CEOs of Cornish Lithium and Strongbow Mining

After a great afternoon in the Cornish sunshine it was back to Falmouth to relax in the evening with dinner sponsored by Cornish Lithium at MEI's former conference venue, the St Michael’s Hotel. Many thanks from everyone to Cornish Lithium and Strongbow Mining for sponsoring an unforgettable day.

Twitter @barrywills

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