Parys Mountain, located south of the town of Almwch in north east Anglesey off the Welsh coast, is the site of what was at one time the most important copper mine in the world. Mining on the mountain dates back to the Bronze Age and excavations in 2002 found sub-surface evidence dating back 4,000 years. The mountain is one of the rare British sites where there is evidence of Prehistoric activity clearly demonstrating the beginning of metal mining in the UK. In the 18th century copper ingots were found on the site bearing Roman inscriptions.
Industrial Scale extraction really began in 1768. The copper ore produced was of low quality but the large quantity found and mined on the mountain made up for that. Two main veins were present near to the surface and early mining techniques used extraction of the ore by drilling shallow shafts from above the ground. This process moved on from there to ‘open-pit’ mining which allows work to continue near to the surface but is used to extract ore deeper down in the rock. Once the copper ore had been exhausted at this level mining went deep underground.
The best of the ore taken from Parys Copper Mine was shipped to Lancashire or the Lower Swansea Valley for smelting. The remaining copper was extracted at the site of the mine using furnaces and kilns to ‘draw out’ the metal. It was also discovered that purer metals could be obtained but in much smaller quantities by precipitation from drainage water into purpose built ponds. Chemical industries were established on the mountain to work alongside the mine.
During the 1780s the copper mine dominated the world’s market and was the largest in Europe. Its success unfortunately severely damaged the mining industry in Cornwall. The mountain mine supplied the copper for the British Admiralty’s wooden ships of war. This was used to coat the bottom of the hulls below the waterline thus keeping them free of barnacles and woodworm. This increased their speed and manoeuvrability and allowed them to stay at sea for longer periods before having to return to port for maintenance.
The Parys Mine Company produced its own currency between 1787 and 1793 in response to a national shortage and the ‘Parys Penny’ was used by the mine to pay its workers. It is thought that around ten million pennies and half pennies were minted.
During the late 1990s a survey of the mine’s hydraulic systems found that a reservoir held back by a dam in one of the underground workings was in poor condition and could cause substantial damage and even loss of life in parts of Amlwch if a catastrophic failure happened. Therefore, in 2003, a drainage operation was carried out to drop the water level in the mine relieving the pressure on the dam and removing the threat of a disaster.
Due to the high levels of metal and chemical contamination in the soil very little plant life grows on or around the mountain. This ‘strange and alien’ landscape has been used for filming science fiction movies and programmes for TV.
It is possible to find out more by visiting ‘The Copper Kingdom’ an interactive museum and discovery centre in nearby Almwch
The actual mine is only accessible by contacting the Parys Underground Group to arrange a visit as strict rules apply and the site is protected by legislation. Visiting this location requires experience and knowledge of working around geological sites.
On the 16th of October 1980 the North Wales Chronicle reported that a UFO had been spotted landing near to the old mines of Parys Mountain in Wales. The incident was witnessed by several independent eye witnesses and was investigated by the local police. Schoolboys – David Prytherch & Gerald Kellahan, from Syr Thomas Jones School, Amlwch, stated that they had seen: “A brightly lit saucer shaped object, full of coloured lights, which made a swishing noise as passed overhead. It looked like a crab underneath, as it passed directly above our heads, at around 8.00 pm., before heading on towards Parys Mountain, joined, shortly afterwards, by a bigger version of the first.”
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Tyddyn Sianel, Llanystumdwy, Criccieth
Gwynedd, Wales, LL52 0LS
+44 (0)1766 522 855
- Address: B5111, Almwch, Anglesey, Wales, United Kingdom, LL68 9RE
- GPS: 53.3864847,-4.353866400000015
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: LL68 9RE
- Entrance Fees: Free Access
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: Good (exterior workings only)
- Image Credits: Gail Johnson