Although the legacy of metal mining spans 4000 years, its current visual and environmental impact is essentially the relic of 19th century activity when a predominantly ‘local consumption’ was replaced by ’nationwide demand’; first for lead and later for zinc. Medieval to early 18th century interest was stimulated by locally rich silver content of the lead ores; but silver in zinc ore was lost to the tips when the latter ore was discarded as of no value.

Y-Einion-Cambrian-MountainsThis talk will explore the mining history of the Cambrians in the context of the development of understanding of the “geological wilderness of Central Wales” and of ore genesis / emplacement in general. The former factor proves important (and had a major impact on geological understanding more widely in Britain) but the latter is of limited relevance.

The peak of mining was too early to benefit either from the birth of modern mining and engineering geology or of 20th century methods of ore dressing. The demise of the ore field from the 1880s was hastened by unfavourable operating costs (notably transport), the necessarily over reliance on water power and all-too-common management malpractice and incompetence.

Mining’s legacy currently poses more problems than opportunities; both will be illustrated but in each the role of regulatory bodies is becoming increasingly important. The important issue of remediation of mine water discharge – familiar to anyone who has walked along the Afon Rheidol – will be explored in this context.

It will be argued that the mine exploration community has a currently under-appreciated role in the assessment of value / risk of mining legacy.


david jamesDavid James began his geological research in the Cambrians in 1964, mapping the Plynlimon – Llyfnant area. His professional career was in hydrocarbon exploration working internationally but he maintained a base in Cwmystwyth from which he continues his studies in retirement (albeit more slowly !). He is chair of the Cambrian Mines Trust and a visiting professor at Cardiff University. His principal research interests are the evolution of the Ordovician- Silurian deepwater basin in Central Wales and the geometry / genesis / mineralisation of the lodes of the Orefield, on both of which he has published extensively.

Time, place and tickets 

The webinar will take place at 7-8pm on 13 July, online by Zoom.  Tickets are free and will be available from 12 May on Eventbrite here.