The 1930s at Dolaucothi Gold Mines

1930s mine yard

1930s mine yard

After the failure of early 20th-century ventures, it wasn’t long before a 60-year mining lease was taken out, which led to the newly-formed Roman Deep Ltd beginning work to extensively develop the mining area, starting with Mitchell’s Shaft.

New technologies that had been developed since James Mitchell’s time meant that adits could be driven further and shafts sunk deeper than ever before. The shaft that Mitchell began in 1909 was drained of water and steadily deepened in stages to 480ft (146m) - making it the deepest known shaft on site.

A ring for a royal wedding

Despite the ambition of the development, gold extraction was not substantial in the early 1930s; its destination was occasionally more remarkable. According to some of the miners who worked the site at the time, Dolaucothi supplied a small amount of gold for a royal wedding ring, for the wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.

Such ambition required considerable funding though. Twice over the succeeding years the mining company was renamed and the lease transferred in order to raise extra funds to keep up the rate and scale of development.

Expanding the production

When the company became British Goldfields (No. 1) Ltd in 1937, employment rose dramatically as the labour force increased to between 150 and 200, many of whom were young men from local farms.

The expansion in the workforce allowed gold production to soar to some of the highest levels ever seen at Dolaucothi. On average, several hundred tons of ore was extracted each week by British Goldfields from the beginning of its operation until late 1938. Around 4,000 tonnes of ore yielded over 1,000 ounces (28kg) of gold during September of that year.

Alongside the extraction of the ore came the construction of a large mill complex for transforming it into a sulphide concentrate that made it easier to transport overseas for refinement.

Building a mill complex

However, the mill complex was expected to produce waste that might pollute the nearby River Cothi, so it had to be constructed some distance away. Another consideration was that the owners of the Dolaucothi Estate, the Johnes family, did not wish to see the large processing mills from the windows of Dolaucothi House!

The mill was eventually built on a hill 250ft above the mine yard. It required the construction of an expensive inclined tramway to haul up the ore to be concentrated. The foundations of the mill complex can still be seen today while walking our Miner’s Way Trail.

Lack of investment

The cost of the mills and the tramway added to difficulties encountered in previous years. From the early planning stages of the workings, money was wasted by not rectifying problems until it was too late. The already-narrow gold veins were becoming scarce and not enough resources were invested in new discoveries.

Therefore, just a month after gold production had reached its peak, mining operations ground to a halt, in October 1938. Within two years all the buildings would be removed and the mine shafts would be allowed to flood. Mining at Dolaucothi would never resume.