British Mining No 105
The Lead Mines of Strontian
by Stephen Moreton and David I. Green
This account of the lead mines of Strontian is an exhaustive history from their first recorded exploitation in 1714 to the baryte mining of Strontian Minerals Ltd in 1991. The research includes information from the documents of Sir Andrew Murray, the Mackenzie of Delvine papers and the archives of Minworth Ltd, who carried on the last of the mining.
The geology of the area is described as are the complications resulting from the Murray’s support for the Jacobite cause, when the mines’ gunpowder was the subject of government investigations. The dodgy dealings of the York Building Co. (1730-1737) were one of the most outrageous scams ever perpetrated. The mines’ situation on the West Coast of Scotland ensured their involvement in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion. Even in 1748, the mine lessee, Luke Walker was ‘relieved to have a party of troops boarding with him’ – feelings not normally expressed by inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands. However, the mines were immortalised by the discovery of the mineral strontianite in 1791 and of the element strontium by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1808.
A succession of lead mining companies worked here until 1983 when Strontian Minerals Ltd changed the landscape by mining baryte on a massive scale. A detailed analysis explains why this operation nearly succeeded but, in the end after eight years, failed like so many mining ventures.
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