Electricity in Cornish mines


Extracted from "The Electrical Review" magazine in 1909, here's an insight to the introduction of electricity to Cornish mines.

The “Electrical Review" say- editorially that it is glad to hear that the premier Cornish tin mine has decided to adopt electric pumping, and adds: "At the recent general meeting, the Chairman stated that after prolonged and anxious consideration, the joint recommendation of the manager and a firm of consulting electrical engineer, to drive the pumps and stamps by electric motors, had been adopted. They found that the installation of a Cornish pumping engine would cost more if the motive power were electricity, and the situation was improved further by the possibility of saving over £20.000 capital expenditure, by taking power from the supply company instead of generating if themselves.
The manager added that the reliability would secured by the provision of duplicate pumping sets, and lower annual overall pumping charge than at present would be obtained. One gathers from the report that the manager was quite apologetic about his recommendation, but this may have been more for the purpose placating very strong Cornish Pump division, than from genuine reluctance to abandon the traditional machinery.

it would be foolish to attempt to hide the fact that some of the first applications of electricity in Cornish mining were not immediately successful, but I rather suspect that this was due to the supposition that what did well in one kind of mining would suit all kinds; or it may have been that the first electric motors were under powered. Whatever the cause, it was never in reasonable doubt that a compact electrical plant distributing power to motors all over the mine, and particular the stamps and pumps, had to be economically superior to the sacrosanct Cornish engine. The efficiency claimed of the old mining engineer and mine captain for this engine, no matter how ancient, reminded me of the boiler tests of certain makers, but no one could doubt that it was and a wonderful steam engine, and that it filled a place which could not have been occupied by any other type of steam engine of that time.

"If the boom in tin had lasted for slightly longer fraction of the eternity which the sanguine company promoter prophesied, there would have been a larger number of mines equipped with electrical machinery, but the golden age came and passed like a comet, leaving. Cornish mining in a stronger condition than before, but not staying long enough to bring to maturity new ventures, which would have likely prospered in good hands. Short as the time was, it proved enough to enable the electrical idea to be hung in everyone's mind, thanks to the energy of the local supply company and of certain manufacturers who had their part well after the way was opened the enlightened actions the of the London financiers, to whom Cornwall appeared to owe so much.

"Having gained footing, nothing could stop the continuous encroachment of electricity upon the field of the steam engine in the Duchy, and the next steady rise in tin should have brought all the large mines into the fold of modem progress."

In the early applications of electrical machinery, which were practically confined to pumping, electrical consultants were considered unnecessary. Manufacturers accepted the work without knowledge of the special requirements that these consultants obtained, and installed apparatus totally unsuitable, with the inevitable result that at least the first six installations proved melancholy failures, and when clearing liquidation of the mining company did not occur, the electrical machinery was promptly replaced by the Cornish steam engine. Until 1907, only one electrical pumping installation could be called successful, and the manufacturers who were responsible were justly rewarded by obtaining the bulk of the orders that had been placed throughout the Duchy.
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