From mineral to metal – mining is fascinating

From mineral to metal – mining is fascinating! (published 2014)

East Pool Mine, Pool, (National Trust),

Cornish MinerWith its impressive Cornish beam engines and industrial heritage discovery centre is well worth a visit. There are family-friendly activities: the Rubbings Trail, Felt Pasties, Dressing Up and 50 Things to Do. The Inspector’s Report is brilliant; the children don overcoats and caps and inspect Taylor’s engine house, they love it. 5 to 26 Aug: Trevithick Tuesdays, 11am to 4pm, free with normal admission. Hoorah! Hands-on, science-based activities which explain the basic technology behind the great steam-powered pumping and winding engines.

  • Build a Straw Stack – how tall can you make yours?
  • Do the Great Egg Drop Challenge – no broken eggs please.
  • Create your own rag and chain water pump – be prepared to get a bit wet!
  • Make an Exploding Rocket – near the old explosive store…. 01209 315027

Levant Mine, Pendeen, (National Trust).

See the historic beam engine in action, investigate the man engine tunnel, look down the deep shaft and experience the work children did at Levant’s engine house and dressing floor. Then explore the coast path and the mining remains with a geocache or map and compass and discover birds, seals, dolphins, basking sharks and bugs with the National Trust explorer packs.

Summer events:

  • Wednesdays 30 July & 20 Aug: create wild art on the cliff tops; bring a picnic, 11.30am to 1pm & 2.30 to 4pm, free with entry.
  • Wednesday 13 Aug: Close to the  Edge – an adventurer’s story, 6.30 to 10pm, join master storyteller Mark Harandon along the coast path to Botallack. Uncover compelling tales of the men, women and children who worked on the cliffs and a mile out under the sea, then return to Levant to see the engine steaming by candle-light, book 01736 786156, £6.50/ £4, family £18.
  • Sunday 24 Aug: watch local craftspeople smelt Levant’s tin and copper ores, converting rocks into molten metal, then ingots into stylish artefacts, 11am to 4pm, free with entry. 01736 786156

Tolgus Tin Mine & Cornwall Gold, Redruth.

The mill has processed tin ore for hundreds of years; at its heart is a massive 12-headed set of Cornish Stamps still driven by a 16’ water wheel. Watch tin being  processed in the streaming mill, and made into jewellery. Inside you will find shaking tables, a round table, water wheels, dipper wheels, launders, pulverisers, and  slime pits. The mill is also home to the Old Cornwall Society Town Museum; there are mining tools, maps, tin ingots, journals, photographs of old mines and miners.  You can also try your hand at panning for gold at Piskie Panning or take the 4D Haunted Mine Ride….! 01209 203280

Geevor Tin Mine, Pendeen.

27 July to 1 Sept Holiday events:

  • free with entry. 01736 788662.
  • Sundays: Meet a miner, find out about a day in the life of a miner.12.30pm.
  • Mondays: craft sessions from 11am to 3pm.
  • Tuesdays: mining-related workshops, 12.30 to 2pm.
  • Wednesdays: stone-carving family workshop, drop-in 11am to 1pm & 1.30 to 4pm.
  • Thursdays: Hand Drilling – meet miner Cyril, dress up and have a go at atearly mining techniques, 11.30am to 2pm.
  • Fridays: craft workshops, 11am to 3pm
  • 18 Aug: Make and race a compressed air hovercraft in the compressor house, 11am to 3pm

Fun Science experiment: Make a Balloon Hovercraft

Ballon makingMines were full of giant machines like compressors which squashed (compressed) air into huge balloon-shaped tanks. The compressed air was used to power vital  machines, like rock drills. If you have a go at drilling by hand, you will understand what a brilliant improvement having a powered drill was. Why not try using  compressed air to power a balloon hovercraft?

You will need:

  • An unwanted CD or DVD
  • Small balloon
  • A push-to-close bottle top (like you find on fruity drinks)
  • PVA or a glue gun


  1. Stick the bottle top over the hole in the CD. The glue has to make an airproof seal.
  2. Let the glue dry.
  3. Blow up a small balloon.
  4. Twist the end a few times to stop the air coming out but don’t knot it.
  5. Slip the end of the balloon over the bottle top and let it
  6. Stop the air escaping using the bottle top’s pushed-down closed position.
  7. Place your hovercraft on a smooth surface.
  8. Pull the bottle top open to start your hovercraft.

Blow at the balloon. How far can it go? Try launching it using a card What is happening? The air is pushed out of the balloon as it tries to get back to its original shape. The escaping air forms a cushion under the CD lifting it off the surface so that it hovers. With the friction from between the surface and the CD removed, it will glide  across the table with a small push or blow. Take it further and explore a preserved mine like Geevor. Find a compressor house and compressors. Discover the uses of  other machines, many of which are still working. Jo Buckingham, Geevor’s STEM ambassador and Learning Development Officer

The Rashleigh Gallery, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro

Houses a marvellous collection of minerals that have come from mines all over Cornwall, as well some collected from overseas during the last 200 years. These  include the vivid-coloured copper and heavy tin minerals on which Cornwall’s mining heritage was built. Recent improvements to the gallery include hands-on  activities; you slip open the beautiful old specimen drawers to discover interactive games and challenges to help children look closely at minerals and learn more  about the mining that made Cornwall famous. Find out if iron ore is heavier than granite, use metallic pencils to draw minerals and ‘dress’ the bal maidens and miners. 01872 272205