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The nineteenth century mining at Ross Island was conducted according
to the general principles of Cornish mining. The rich bed of copper ore
in the Western Mine was worked by sinking vertical shafts to a depth of
up to 16 metres. Underground tunnels were driven out from these shafts
to reach the mineralised ground where the ore was extracted. When the
mine was finally abandoned in 1829, there were some 50 mine shafts
across the site. On the eastern side, the Blue Hole continued to be
worked as a large open-cut mine in this period
Mine Buildings, 1829 Ross Island.
The size of the workforce at Ross Island rose from 150 to around 500
at different times between 1804-10, making an important contribution to
the local economy. The mining expertise was provided by Wicklow, Cornish
and Welsh miners, who worked with labourers drawn from the Killarney
area, under the direction of the manager William White.
One visitor described the operations here in
'The ore at Ross Island is raised by small gangs, each consisting of
2-3 persons, who employ labourers to perform the different manual
operations; these people are paid from 30-39 shillings per ton, and find
their own tools. Carting costs five pence per pound, gunpowder two
shillings and two pence, and candles one shilling. The Company furnish
buckets and horses to draw up the ore and keep the mine clear of
water...The whole works employ 500 men, and during the last four years
were attended with an expense of £50,000.'
The copper ore raised from these shafts was taken
to 'bucking sheds' for crushing and hand-sorting. The richer fragments
were separated from poorer ore and then finely crushed and washed in the
'jigging house' to extract copper minerals. The final ore concentrate
was bagged and conveyed by land carriage to Tralee,
from where it was shipped to Swansea for smelting.
Shafts and dam, 1829 Ross Island