The Phoenix United Dressing Floors in 1880

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Phoenix United’s dressing floors were impressive. They spread out downhill in two directions from the stamp engines to cover the valley sides with in a complex array of tanks, buddles, leats and dressing machinery.  This large industrial site was described in 1880 by the Mining Journal.

Mining Journal January 1880
“The situation of the Phoenix is admirably adapted for the laying out of tin floors, and full advantage has been taken of the position. Almost every available point on the northern slope of the hill down to Darley Ford is occupied with dressing apparatus, and the tin is followed from the shaft mouth down to very limits of the sett.

There are three drawing shafts at Phoenix –Seccombe’s Sump, and West’s, and the three roads converge to one point on the dressing-floors. Both the shafts at West Phoenix are used for drawing, and as that mine is at a considerably higher elevation than the Phoenix, though the latter is on a hill, the stuff is sent down an incline to the West Phoenix floors, which lie a little to the west of Phoenix.

The produce of each portion of the sett is kept apart, West Phoenix giving produce of 13 5/ 8 in 20, and Phoenix one of 13 ¼. The copper ores of which the mine is yet importantly productive, and of which in the south lodes it may be expected to be still wealthy, are, by the way, far above average quality.

From the shafts the skips, which take an average load of 15 up to 17 cwts., are run direct to a Blake’s stone-breaker, which reduces the stuff for the stamps immediately below. Of these there are 96 heads on the Phoenix side, to which we are now confining our remarks, driven by a double 26-inch engine. We observe that the lifters of one half of the sett are of wood, and those of the other half iron; and on enquiry learn that the difference is due to experiment, but that as it has been found that wood is as good as iron for this purpose, and vice versa, each lifter as it wears out is replaced in the same way. These stamps were out by Mr. West in 1865, the first twelve heads of steam stamps having erected in the beginning of 1864, and the second dozen in July of the same year.

It is a singular proof of how good men may be mistaken when dealing with matters that they do not fully understand, that the erection of even the first dozen stamps was opposed by Captain Uren, then agent, on the ground that there was not enough tin stuff in the mine to keep them going. Now, to keep up the regular returns, something like 100 tons of stuff has to be stamped a day.

The stamped stuff is treated in the usual way, with buddles and frames. Of buddles there are upon this side 75, the great majority convex, and of frames 24. There are a couple of burning-houses of the ordinary type, and the water flowing thence is made to pass through a series of strips filled with scrap iron for the precipitation of the copper in solution which the calcinations releases. The craze is taken from the burning-houses to the pulverisers (of which there are three, capable of treating 10 or 12 tons a day), and after it is brought down, buddle and framed, and tossed and packed in the usual manner. The stamp heads weigh about 3 cwts. each, and with the lifters to 4 ½ to 4 ¾ cwts.

The arrangement of the dressing-floor at West Phoenix, where there are 64 heads of stamps, started in May, 1870, differs in no essential degree from that of those at Phoenix. There is, however, a very much larger proportion of frames –180 double frames to 45 buddles. The floors all through are admirably laid out for the treatment of the stuff with the minimum of handling, a and a shammel wheel is now being put in to lift back slimes for re-dressing, and so to do away with the labour and cost of wheeling back in barrows.”

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The remainder of this description of Phoenix United Mine is reproduced within the paperback “The Last Great Cornish Engineer”.

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