Whitesmith Mine

Whitesmith Mine

This is one of the UK’s most remote mining fields in the mountains overlooking Loch Sunart in the Scottish Highlands. The mines are nearly three miles north of the Strontian, on the slopes of Beinn Ruighe Raonuill, and occur on the northern edge of a granite intrusion in granitic gneiss.

In 1722 Alexander Murray, of Stanhope, discovered lead on his estate at Strontian and formed a partnership to work it. The company also built a smelt mill, but, owing to their remoteness, found it difficult to keep the mines supplied with the necessary equipment and fuel.

The York Buildings Company worked the mines between 1730 and 1775, began an adit called the Grand Level, and then developed the workings. After 1775 the mines were mostly standing until 1846, when John Barratt, who had a copper mine at Coniston and an iron ore mine at Hodbarrow, both in the Lake District, leased Middleshope and Bellsgrove mines. His Strontian Mining Co. extended the Grand Level and deepened Bellsgrove Engine Shaft, but gave up by 1856.

This was followed by the Strontian Lead Mining Co. in 1869, but a slump in lead prices from the early 1870s meant that very little work was done.

In 1983 Strontian Minerals Ltd began mining the Main Vein for barytes, but closed later in the decade. Its operations left a large opencut.

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