General history of Parys and Mona copper mines.
The Mona and Parys copper mines are located on Parys Mountain about two miles south of Amlwch in Anglesey. The original name of the area was Mynydd Trysglwyn which is thought to mean a hillside covered in a thick grove of rough trees covered with scaly lichen growth.
In 1406 a Robert Parys was appointed by the King to collect taxes and fines from the people of Anglesey who had supported the uprising of Owain Glyndwr. As a reward for his efficient collection of taxes he was given Mynydd Trysglwyn which later became named after him. At this time the only asset on the mountain was the farm of Cerrig y Bleddia.
Over the next 300 years the area was passed down the generations until in the mid 18th century the area was held by two of Anglesey’s largest landowners. The eastern area was owned and farmed by the Bayley family of Plas Newydd. The western half of the mountain was jointly owned and farmed by Bayly and by William Lewis of Llys Dulas. The boundary between the two properties was indistinct. In 1762 the Bayly family took a lease on the whole of the Parys farm area on the East of the mountain.
Prior to the 16th century all gold, copper and other precious minerals mined in Britain were automatically crown property. This was a dis-incentive for mining operations to be carried out. During the 16th century the need for brass for the woollen industry was increasing rapidly.
In addition Brass was required for cannons as the Tudor Kings did not want to depend on the import of copper for their weapons of war. In 1564 Queen Elizabeth gave a patent to work copper ore to produce the metal using methods developed in Germany. On 28th of May 1568 the “Mines Royal” company was formed to bring in the skills of the copper workers from other areas of the continent and to develop British copper mines. The Mines Royal were given exclusive rights to mine for copper.
A Mine Royal was a mine (Owned by the Crown) that had deposits containing Gold or Silver in quantities that could be extracted. Many of the Mines in Wales at this time whilst extracting lead ore were primarily being worked for the Silver content of the ore. Large amounts of Silver were sent to London at the end of the 16th Century largely from the great vein at Cwmsymlog Mine. The Mines Royal continued to hold a monopoly on Mines containing Silver (this included most of the working Welsh Mines) until 1693 when 1693 Royal assent was granted to an Act which removed the Crown ownership of mines containing Silver or Gold
The main ores mined were silver, gold and lead, copper working at that time was a commercial failure. The best average annual production was probably around 21 tons of copper metal up to 1615 and between 1640 and 1680 a total of 40 tons at best. There was no real demand for copper at that period and the Mines Royal copper smelting operations only survived on the silver they extracted.
Copper production in England and Wales did not take off until the 1690s with the help of the reverberatory furnace and new uses to stimulate demand.
In 1693 the monopoly of copper mining was removed from the Mines Royal and privateers were allowed to start to prospect for copper and other minerals. By the early part of the 18th century there is evidence that some copper mining prospectors were active in Anglesey and other areas of Anglesey and North Wales
There is evidence that some areas of Parys mountain had been subjected to the fire setting techniques of Bronze age man in an effort to gain copper for making crude tools.
It is thought that the Romans had mined some areas of Parys mountain for lead and copper
When the Romans left Britain copper mining went into the dark ages.
From this is can be assumed that the presence of at least some copper bearing ore in Parys mountain had been know about for some time. However the was no incentive for private money to be invested to develop the area.
In 1579 a Mr Medley had carried out experiments to precipitate copper in the streams which ran out of the mountains. A ” Great mineral works” was built but never became a commercial operation. Details of the process are described by Sir John Wyn of Gwydir.
“The experiment was made in the presence of Burghley,Leicester and Walshingham and other Lords of the council” (i.e. all the important men in the Kingdom at the time)
The result of boiling a great cauldron of the coloured waters from the mine was to produce ” alum , copperas and transmute Iron into Copper” This “magical” property of changing one metal Iron into another Copper was held up as a great example of Alchemy.
There is a reference to “The Prince’s mine at Trysglwyn” in 1698.
In 1706 a visitor to North Wales noted that the mountain yielded “a sort of earth which of which they make Alum and Copperas”
In 1748 Lewis Morris in his dairies noted that the mountain ” produced an Okery earth which is used to make paint” There was no mention of copper.
In 1760 Dr John Rutty gave an address to the Royal Society on the ” Vitriolic liquors” flowing out of the mountain. They were said to be of benefit for curing ulcers, itches, internal haemorrhaging ,worms and diarrhoea.
By 1761 various preliminary search for underground ore were being made in the Amlwch area. It is known that Cornish miners were active at Drws y Coed in Snowdonia. There is also mention by Lewis Morris that some were prospecting in Anglesey including Rhosmynach and Parys.. A Cornishman called James Thomas was said to have already mined some ore at Parys and sent it to Warrington for smelting.
In the same year the Steward of the Arch Deacon of Merionydd was also carrying out a careful search of the Parys Mountain area. It is reported that his horse stumbled and fell into the remains of some previous workings on the mountain.
One of the areas being investigated was that of Cerrig Y Bleiddia farm were Alexander Fraser had begun to look for ore for the Bayley family. A number of shafts were sunk in the area now known as Hen Waith. Copper was found but flooding was always a major problem.
Alexander Fraser was a Scot who had fought with the Jacobeans in 1689 against the King. In 1692 he fled Scotland when he killed a piper for playing an anti Fraser clan tune. He initially went to the Marquis of Powis who had Jacobean tendencies. It was here that Fraser learnt his mining skills. In 1761 it is reported by Lewis Morris that ” A Scot called Fraser was working the Copper mines at Rhos Mynach”
By 1764 Bayly had almost given up on mining for copper on his land. He entered into a lease arrangement with Roe and Company from Macclesfield. They were given the right to mine for 21 years from October 1764 at the eastern end of Parys mountain and also at a Lead mine at Caernarfon. It was the later lead mine that held the greatest attraction to Roe and company at the time.
The land at Cerrig y Bleddia was searched for a number of years and although copper was found it was always in difficult to work , wet veins. One last exploration was started in February 1768 under the direction of Jonathan Roose. This was successful and a rich vein was found on 2nd March 1768 close to the previously named golden venture shaft. This lead to the open cast working in Mona mine. The miner who discovered the lode was called Roland Puw and for his work he was given a rent free cottage for life.
Jonathan Roose is buried in Amlwch church yard.
By 1770 the vein had been extended onto the land belonging to Parys farm. This caused increasing bitter legal disputes about the boundary between the owners of the farms. One the one hand Sir Nicholas Bayley, who owned the Mona land and Rev Edward Hughes who half owned Parys farm. One man who played a large part in the legal disputes was Thomas Williams ( Twm Chwarae Teg or Tom Fair Play)
As well as the newly started open cast and underground mine the precipitation process was being used at Mona mine. In 1772/3 large amounts of scarp iron were being transported from London to be used in the precipitation pits.
Thomas Williams was born 31/5/1737 at Llansadwrn in Anglesey to a minor land owning family. He became a lawyer and was first used by Edward Hughes in 1774 to try and untangle the legal disputes about the boundary of the Parys and Mona lands.
Thomas Williams legal work led to the formation of the Parys Mine company in 1774. With Roose as his technical expert. Over the next few years his influence and skills grew. He also formed alliances and eventually also gained control of the Mona mine. Between 1787 and 1792 his influence grew until he had complete control of the Anglesey and Cornwall copper production.
In 1778 a new company was also formed by John Champion to extract brimstone from the ores on the mountain side. Also at this time the Reverend Bingley visited the mines and left us with one of the earliest written records of conditions at the mine.
Thomas Williams had copper warehouses in London , Birmingham and Liverpool. He erected smelting works on coal fields in South Wales and Lancaster. This was important as Anglesey coal was poor for smelting and each tonne of ore needed 3 tonnes of coal. He campaigned vigorously for the reduction in duty on coal carried by coast to try and improve the smelting and pumping costs at the mine. he did so much in the copper industry throughout the UK that he has been called “The Copper King”
Copper works were built at Flint and Penclawdd to make copper and brass products. Many of these materials were for use in the African Slave trade. Thomas invested £70,000 in this trade and petitioned parliament in 1788 when a bill was being discussed to prevent British Ships carrying slaves.
Thomas Williams also introduced the use of copper bolts to fix the copper sheathing to Navel vessels and seem to have sold then to all sides in the naval conflicts.
The copper and wire works at Greenfield near Holywell also produced the copper blanks for the Parys mountain penny which were struck in Birmingham and London.
At Mona mine the old 21 year lease to Roe and co had expired in 1785 and a new company was formed. This was known as the “old” Mona Mine company and was still confined to the Cerrig y Bleddia area. Thomas William’s became a partner in this new company when the Bayley sold his share to a London Banker called John Dawes.
Under the Roe and co lease only the best parts of the mines had been worked. Towards the end of the lease the whole area had lacked investment and had poor facilities.
Under Thomas Williams direction new buildings were built at Mona and a new quay built at Amlwch Port. Between 1785 and 1788 over £61,000 was invested in the Mona mine. This investment was well repaid over the next 10 year as new areas were opened and the Zenith of the combined mines production was reached. During these years 1200 people were employed at the two mines.
Thomas William’s died in 1802 and over the next 5 years the production of copper at the mines dropped dramatically. By 1808 only 120 men were employed. The rapid drop in production was partially due to the end of the workable areas of the Open cast and partially because of a reduction in the market for copper.
During the period that Thomas Williams had been in charge, Parys mountain became a Mecca for some of the best artists of the day may of who have left us impressions of the scenes at the copper mines.
In 1811 the control of both mines passed to Lord Uxbridge of Plas Newydd and the same year the “new” Mona mine company was formed when John Vivian of the Swansea copper family took a controlling interest in the mines. With the great open cast worked out more traditional underground areas had to be opened up. This was the period of an influx of Cornish workers the most important of which was James Treweek.
Treweek became the new Mona mine Manager in 1811 and moved with his family to Mona lodge in Amlwch. He was in charge of the mine and transport to and from the port. He was also in charge of hiring and firing at the mine. This gave him great power and lead to complaints of nepotism. He was responsible for the setting of the price to be paid for each area of the mine to be worked. These “bargains” were publicly set every fortnight with a ” Dutch auction” method being used. The lowest bidder getting the work. It was around this time that Michael Faraday visited the mined and recorded what he saw in his diaries.
Transport from and to the mine was by cart. For the Mona mine a local farmer Williams Hughes of Madyn Dysw had a monopoly for over 20 years. However at Parys mine other local farmers could also carry.
By 1828 Treweek was also in charge of the precipitation pits at the mine and his control was extended to the operation of the Parys Mine. A few years later he was in control of all aspects of smelting at the mine and at Amlwch port and was also responsible for all movement of shipping for the mine in the port area. He reported to Sanderson who was Lord Uxbridge’s estate manager. Treweek held control of all these aspects of mine operation until his death in 1851. His family then took control and were also influential in the Amlwch ship building industry which developed in the middle of the 19th Century.
The demand for copper was low in the early years of the 19th century and the Mona mine had difficulties paying its way. However, under Treweek the mines did expand by the new methods of digging deeper shafts and using engines to dewater the mine. In 1829 16,400 tonnes of ore was raised annually. This however was only 50% of that raised during the time of the great open cast.
Many of the methods and Supervisors during this period came from Cornwall. It was a constant complaint that the Mona mine supervision were mainly outsiders while the Parys mine had more local officials.
Despite the problems from 1817 to 1823 the Mona mine produced a good quality and quantity of ore and was making a healthy profit under the supervision of the Thomas Tiddy who was appointed by Treweek in1819.. However, by 1829 the price and demand was dropping again and the numbers employed at the mine was reduced. By around 1830 many of the precipitation pits were abandoned. In 1860 Tiddy attempted to cut the Mona Mine workers wages however, a strike resulted. Tiddy was forced to hide in the Cerreg y Doll engine house. All the miners at the time were in a prayer meeting. the boiler of the engine house blew up. This was the last straw for Tiddy who left the mine soon after. He was replaced at the Mona mine by another Cornishman Captain Trewren. However he also provoked the miners into another strike in 1863.
When Treweek came to Amlwch the smelters were only seen as a means of concentrating the ore. Treweek saw the potential in their own right. He paid particular attention to their development and even started to bring in ores from other parts of the country to smelt with the local ores. By 1820 the Mona mine had 16 smelter furnaces and the Parys works 9. The output of each group of smelters was around 350 tpa. As the production from Mona and Parys mines dropped additional material was brought in form other parts of Britain.
At Parys mine the exhaustion of easily won supplies also lead to a reduction of output in the first part of the 19th century. Until in 1832/4 a new rich vain called the North Discovery lode was found which lasted until around 1840. After this many workmen and woman from Parys moved to the Drws y Coed mine in Snowdonia.
The exact position of the boundary between the Mona and Parys mines was argued over for many years. in September 1835 a court ruling meant that Parys mine gained 2000 square yards of land from the Mona mine.
By 1840 much mining had finished and the whole Amlwch area was impoverished. The area was also hit by Typhus fever due to malnutrition. In 1846 Charles Dyer was the mine supervisor the remaining miners went on strike to try and increase their miserable wages. However the area remained poor until towards the middle of the Century another good copper vein was discovered and some work returned to the mine.`
In 1847 James Treweek was followed as Manager of the mine by his son John Treweek. The amount of copper raised at the mine improved and by 1858 the people of Amlwch were in a much better state of health.
A new act was past in 1850 which meant that all injuries and deaths in the mine had to be reported to inspector. The first mine inspector in North Wales was Thomas Fanning Evans.
The Mona mine was leased to Thomas Fanning Evans and John Wynne Paynter for 31 years on 20/4/1866. ore production was fairly consistent. Part of the smelter works was leased to Henry Hills. In 1880 Mona Mines Ltd took over the assets with Robert Oldrey as principle share holder. Work was started on the Lemin shaft. However, the company was wound up in 1885. The company was merged with the Parys Mine in 1899 to form Mona and Parys mines Ltd. Activity was concentrated at the precipitation and ochre works at Dyffryn Adda.
Closer ties were made with the copper smelters in the Swansea valley.
Other merchants were able to make a living off the miners and other works such as Mr Hills fertiliser factory were also providing employment.
Between 1858 and 1870 Captain Dyer was the Chief manager at Parys Mines.. The company operated under the name of Parys Mines Company Ltd. It is estimated that around £400,000 profit was made for the mine owners at that time. Things went downhill again after 1870 when the lease was pasted to Parys Mines Reconstructed Ltd. Some of the engineers like Captain Trevithick and Williams left the mine. The company name was changed to Parys Mountain Mines Ltd. In 1877 the Morfu du portion of the lease was sold to the Morfu Du mining company.
Charles Dyer died in 1879.
A new company called the Parys Copper Corporation and run by Captain Thomas Mitchell from Cornwall took over the operation of the Parys mine on 24 March 1879. Work was mainly confined to the 90 fathom level of the Carreg Y doll lode. The remaining ore was difficult and costly to remove. Over the next 4 years’ production dropped as low as 5665 tonnes of ore and 3090 of ochre and umber. This by 400 workers. The Parys Copper Corporation was wound up in 1885 when the Parys and Morfu du mines remerged.
In 1879 a local committee was formed to try and support the poor of the parish once again. the company was also in financial difficulties and it was mainly the Ochre pits that were worked.
There was also an attempt to work under ground at the bottom of the Open cast sits. New deeper mine tunnels were dig. The tunnels at Mona mine had some success but those at Parys mine were found to be too costly. the companies income for 1878 was only £2000 against £4000 expenditure. The leases and equipment was sold to another company. However it was difficult to raise money and in 1880 the company was sold yet again. This time to a Mr Fanning Evans and Wynne Paynter who sublet the mines for others to work.
One of the companies imported an expensive furnace from America. After a few days the molten ore had solidified in the pipes blocking them. Inspection by the manufacturers said that the ore was too stony and unsuitable for treatment in a furnace.
In 1892 Mr Fanning Evans owned the mine and employed 31 miners under ground,126 on the surface and 34 with ochre. Output was 265 tons of copper precipitate worth £3090,2150 tons of Ochre and umber worth £4870 and 470 ton of stone worth £850. The Parys mine joined with the Mona mine in 1899 to form Mona and Parys Mines Ltd. Activity was concentrated at the precipitation and ochre works at Dyffryn Adda.
By the 1901 census 141 worked at the mine producing only copper and ochre from the pits. Mr T.F.Evans was the mine manager in 1921 when a receiver was called in. In 1928 companies house were informed that the mines were now run by a private company.
A small number of shafts were still worked at the Morfa ddu mine on the Parys farm and the precipitation ponds near to Dyffryn Adda were still in use as late as 1904.
It has been estimated that between 1768 and 1904 , 3.5 million tons of ore had been removed to give around 130 000 tons of copper metal. Around 20 km of under ground tunnels were excavated.
Exploration using modern techniques recommended in 1955 by Anglesey Mining Exploration Ltd.and has continued since then. The Anglesey Copper Mines (UK) LTd continued until 1962 drilling 11 surface boreholes. Initial searches were again for copper bearing ore.
The canadian industrial Gas and Oil company ltd (CIGOL) drilled 52 bore holes over 4 years from 1966 but no promising reserves were found.
However in 1973 the existence of a high grade polymetalic ore deposit in the engine zone was discovered by Cominco LtD. It was estimated that the reserves were 4.8 million Tonnes of an ore containing 1.5% copper,3% lead,6% Zinc and small amounts of gold and silver.
Based on these results a new shaft (The Morris shaft )was sunk by The Anglesey Mining Company in 1988.
An experimental processing plant was also built. This has increased the known reserves in the mine to 6.5 million Tonnes. Further experimental drillings are planned.
In 2008 AMC entered negotiations with Western metals of Australia which if they had succeed would have resulted in further investment and development of the new mining areas on the mountain.
However due to drops in metal prices in the recession which took hold soon afterward the development did not take place. In 2015 a scoping study suggested that the mine could best be developed by developing a steady downward decline rather than a single shaft such as the Morris shaft. By 2018 a second study had suggested that more of the valuable material could be developed quicker by re-commissioning the Morris shaft.