A brief history of Levant Mine

The man engine shaft © Chris Quick

The man engine shaft

Levant Mine and Beam Engine is located within the St Just Mining District; one of the most ancient hard-rock tin and copper mining areas in Cornwall.

Copper and tin has been mined here for generations, and the mine workings of Levant extend over a mile out under the sea bed. In 1820, the Levant Mining Company was formed with a capital of £400, though Levant Mine first appeared on a map in 1748. By 1836, 320 men, 44 women and 186 children were employed on the site.

From a glorious heyday to tragedy and decline

In Levant's first 20 years of business, £170,000 was made from mining copper. New technology was introduced to streamline production, and in 1857 the now-infamous man engine was installed. This engine carried men many fathoms up and down the mine, to and from work each day.

Disaster underground

In 1919, the man engine suffered a disastrous failure when a link between the rod and the engine snapped, killing 31 men.

Levant experienced a steady decline and in 1930 the mine closed.

What did the mine produce?

  • Copper: the original focus of Levant's mining industry
  • Tin: there are two tin-dressing floors at the mine
  • Arsenic: a lucrative but deadly by-product of tin ore