A brief history of Levant Mine

Levant Mine & Beam Engine in 1904

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. 

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, between 1826 and 1840 seven new engines were brought on site.
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. In 1919, the man engine suffered a disastrous failure when a link between the rod and the engine snapped, killing 31 men.


Levant Mine first appeared on Martyn’s Map, as an amalgamation of three other early mines: Zawn Brinney, Boscregan and Wheal Unity. Its location is remote, but deposits of tin and copper were rich.


Levant Mining Company was formed with a capital of £400. A group of 20 people were involved in the company, which was divided into 80 shares. It went on to become a great success – in one period of two months, it made £4,630.


By this time, 320 men, 44 women and 186 children were employed at the mine. Many of the women and children were involved in ‘dressing’ the ore: preparing it for sale.


Michell’s whim engine was made by Harvey’s of Hayle. Designed by Francis Michell, its purpose was to carry ore from the deep workings – some extending beneath the sea – to the surface.


The man engine was installed. This aimed to make the transporting of miners up and down the workings faster and easier. Each day, miners changed into their work clothes in the Miners’ Dry (changing room) before walking down the tunnel to Man Engine Shaft.


The Levant mining disaster. Thirty-one men were killed when a link between a rod and the man-engine snapped, sending the engine down the shaft. The engine was not repaired, and the deep levels were never worked again.


Levant Mine closed after losing large amounts of money. A major factor in this was that in the midst of an economic depression, the price of tin had dropped dramatically.


Levant passed into the care of the National Trust. In the same year, the Trust also took on the care of East Pool Mine, near Redruth.


The whim engine was restored by a group of volunteers known as the ‘Greasy Gang’. A fundraising appeal was formally launched in September 1990 to generate the money needed for the work. Today, the engine can be seen in action as the last of its kind to work under steam in its original engine house.


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