Monday, 25 January 2010

White Gold

A rare trip today down to the land of White Gold. The clay pits around St Austell are in one word massive.
Ive been going there for many a year and Ive got lost everytime. The moon like landscape has been created over the last 250 years as clay miners have battled to extract the precious clays from the earth.
The pits clays are the purist in the world and uses include tablets, papers, ceramics, and make up. But in reality everything you touch on a daily basis probably has some form of clay in it as a filler.
The problem comes in extracting it. A ratio of 1 tonne of clay to 11 parts quartz, mica and a zillion other minerals make it very very expensive to remove and it is highly abrasive. Ive worked in mineral extraction for 25 years and nothng else comes close to the way this stuff wears things out.
So today I went to inspect some work with a view of providing a quotation.
A slight problem of a 600odd mile journey but hey ho. So 3.45 am and 5 hrs later I arrive in Nanpean known locally as Namps.
The Eden Project is here but I cant help look at the devastation hat has been inflicted on the countryside with the urge to dig out this highly prized mineral.

Nanpean in the heart of the Clay Pit Districts

If you dont sign in and collect your miners tally from the operations office you will never be allowed on site again. No excuses. Safety is paramount in the Pits.

Collect your green tally on entry and return it when you leave

The pits make exciting mini mountains all around the area but the devastatin on the land is immense
It would take an infinity and 100s of millons of pounds to reinstate the spoil pits. Eventually they will be moved as more of the precious clays lie directly under the heaps.

Some of the smaller older heaps look like pointy hats. The larger more recent spoil piles are more stepped and tiered to stop landslides occuring.
Two very old heaps that have re seeded themselves and are now green. Thousands of trees are being planted to try and reinstate the area.

Years ago thousands of locals were employed by ECC minerals and then Imerys. Nowadays a fraction of people work in the pits. Places like Roche, St Dennis, Nanpean all relied on the pits to sustain them. Not anymore.
I doubt if there are more than 400 people employed in the whole area.
Some of the pits are 150metres deep and Im told not one Pit has ever been bottomed or worked out.
In an area of about 40 square miles is the worlds most purest, richest prized clay.

1 comment:

  1. I visited Eden in the summer, loved it. Would like to return and explore the area a little more