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Parys Mountain Copper Mines

Parys Mountain Copper Mines - Overview

The technicolour moonscape on Parys Mountain gives evidence of the once booming, and world famous, copper mines of Anglesey. Although archaeological evidence shows that copper was extracted from Parys Mountain as early as the Bronze Age, large-scale industrial production only developed after the discovery of a particularly rich lode in 1768. Developed by Thomas Williams, the country’s first ‘Copper King’, by the 1780s the Parys Mountain Copper Mines, owned by Nicholas Bayley, MP for Anglesey, were the largest in the world. The copper ores were shipped from the port of nearby Amlwch to Swansea, then the global centre of copper smelting, and found particular fame when they were used to sheath the hulls of Nelson’s naval ships.

Many foreign visitors came to see the famed copper mines of Parys Mountain to study open cast mining and the preparatory smelting procedures as well as marvel at the large mining pits and brightly coloured slag heaps. In 1796, the young Austrian count Gottfried Wenzel von Purgstall toured the whole of Wales and made a stop here. Describing himself as a layman who did not understand much of the technical aspects of smelting, his account gives a good impression of the mines at their peak of production. At a similar date, August Gottfried Lentin spent a few weeks in north Wales with the intent to study the open cast mining at Parys Mountain in greater detail. To this date, his series of letters count among the best contemporary descriptions of copper mining, its related industries, and the environmental and social impact on the people and isle of Anglesey.

Although the industry declined rapidly in the early nineteenth century, the impact of copper mining on Parys Mountain is still visible today with brightly coloured broken ground and the ruins of industrial structures scattered across the area. Despite the ongoing struggle against the pollution of the soil and water, some rare plants continue to grow. Local guides now offer tours through the historical open cast pits and mining levels.

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