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tin-mining

tin-mining was undertaken in Cornwall and Devon in prehistoric times and continued into the 20th cent. Early mines exploited alluvial deposits near the surface but by the 16th cent. underground working following veins of ore had become the norm. Flood waters limited access to some tin deposits and deeper mining only became practicable during the 18th cent. when Newcomen beam-engines made it possible to pump water from the workings. Tin combined with copper made bronze; and tin combined with lead made pewter. Both these alloys were used for many purposes for centuries. Coal replaced charcoal for smelting tin ore in the later 17th cent. as the demand for tin grew. Large quantities of coal from south Wales and Somerset were used at the tin-mines. Cornish production supplied most of the needs of Britain and Europe until the mid-19th cent. when many mines were worked out. The increased demand was met from Peru, and, later, Malaya. Demand for tin rose rapidly in the late 19th cent. to make tinplate (steel with a coating of tin) for rust-free containers for food.

Ian John Ernest Keil

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