Hide Articles List

13 articles on this Page

[No title]







I THE MINERAL WEALTH OF WALES. On Wednesday evening, April 24, a lecture on this sub- ject was delivered before the Society of Cymmrodorion, at I the Frsemasons' Tavern, London, by Professor Rudler, of Aberystwyth. The chair was occupied by the Rev. Robert Jones, vicar of All Saints, Rotherhithe. A large map of Wales, prepared for the occasion, and showing ap- proximately the distribution of useful minerals, was hung upon the wall; and there was also exhibited a huge tabu- lar statement showing the quantity and value of the minerals raised in Wales, and the metals smelted there- from, during the last ten years; After some introductory remarks, in which humourous reference was made to some of the events of the day, the Lecturer observed that in countries where fisheries were not of great value, the chief sources of material wealth were drawn, directly or indirectly, from the earth. So largely was this the case that some of the older political economists went so far as to assert that the earth is the only source of wealth. Thus one writer says, What we call commodities is nothing but land severed from the soil. Man deals in nothing but earth. All things in the world are originally the produce of the ground, and there.must all things be raised." Wales draws the ele- ments of its material wealth almost entirely from the earth, either from the soil or from the solid rock, thus giving rise to two kinds of industry—agriculture and mining. Leaving the subject of agriculture to his newly-appointed colleague, Professor Rudler referred only to the raw materials which lie at the base of mining and the allied art of metallurgy. In inviting the Cymmrodorion to review the Mineral Resources of the Principality, he remarked that such a work was at the present commercial crisis singularly op- portune. He referred to the causes which have lately been in operation to bring about the unfortunate state of trade, and cited the Commercial History of 1877 which recently formed a supplement to the Economist. If the present depressed condition of our mineral industries is to be ameliorated, it is to science that we must look for means of improving our methods of extraction and pro- duction. No improvements in raising minerals or in working them into commodities can, however, be of avail to a country, if it does not possess the necessary stores of raw material to work upon. Labour is not creative, and can only employ itself in modifying the resources which nature supplies. It was, therefore, of no small interest to review the stores of mineral wealth which Wales yet possesses. In commencing this review, attention was, of course, directed to the distribution of coal. Although coal is abundant in Wales, yet by far the larger part of the coun- try is composed of rocks in. which men might dig till Doomsday without finding so much as a shovelful of coal. The age of the old slaty rocks of Wales was explained, and reference made to abortive at- tempts at coal mining in some of the shaly beds. The distribution of the true coal measures was traced on the map. The great coal field of South Wales forms, an oval area with its longer axis directed E. and W., and measuring more than eighty miles in length, while its greatest width is about twenty miles. The area of the coal field is nearly 1,000 square miles. The series of coal measures reaches in some parts the enormous thickness of between 10,000 and 12,000 feet. Reference was made to the surveys of the field by the late Sir W. Logan and Sir H. T. De la Beche to the valuable work for the Coal Commission by Mr. Hussey Vivian and Mr. G. T. Clarke and to a paper by Mr. Forster Brown. In describing the basin-shape of the South Wales coal field, it was explained that some of the most valuable, coals occurred in the lower part of the series, and that these would have been well-nigh lost to the miner, but for a ridge or anticlinal axis, which threw them up within a moderate distance from the surface. Another natural advantage was dwelt upon namely, the intersection of the field by a number of deep narrow valleys running from North to South, and serving as channels of transport to the sea, while by cutting through the seams they enable tunnels to be driven from the sides of the valleys into the heart of the coal seams. The different varieties of coal found in South Wales were pointed out, the ordinary household or bitu- minous coal free-burning or steam coal; and the anthracite or stone coal. The value of the anthracite was explained, and the quaint description of George Owen (1595) was cited This kind of cole is not noysome for the smoake, nor nothing soe lothsome for the smell as the ring cole is, whose smoake annoyeth all neare st, as fyne linen, men's handes that warm themselves by it; but this stone cole yieldeth in a manner noe smoake after it is kindled, and is so pure that fine camerick and lawne is usually dried by it, without any stayne or blemish, and is a most proved good dryer of malt, therein passing wood, ferne, or strawe." About 80 seams of coal, with an aggregate thickness of 1201 feet, are contained in the coalfield of South Wales but only about 84 feet can be profitably worked. The outcrop of the coal must have attracted attention at an early date, and in Monmouthshire a flint implement was found imbedded in a seam of coal. In 1876 there were, accord- ing to Mr. Hunt's "Mineral Statistics," 400 collieries, with an output of 11,973,336 tons. The coalfields of North Wales are less important than those of the South. Commencing a few miles south of Oswestry, the coal-measures stretch in a narrow strip northwards, through Ruabon and Wrexham into Flint- shire, and terminate at the estuary of the Dee. An up- heaval has separated the measures into two-distinct areas. The two fields have an area of about 82 square miles and in 1876 the number of collieries was 128, and the produce 2,207,250 tons. The variety of coal known as Carnel, found in Flintshire, was described; and reference was made to the probability of the coal-measures extending into Cheshire and Lancashire beneath the New Red Sand- stone. In addition to these fields there is a small coal-producing area in Anglesey, with three coliieries in work. From coal the transition was naturally effected to iron. The ores of this indispensible metal are largely distributed through the coal-measures of both South and North Wales in the form of clay-ironstone. The carboniferous limestone also contained some small quantity of hematite, while the older rocks contain a pisolitic ore. It must be confessed, however, that Wales is not rich in those fine red hematite deposits, which are so valuable for yielding pig-iron, to be afterwards convertedjinto Bessemer steel. Allusion was made to the large displacement of wrought iron by steel for rails, and to the effect which this dis- placement has had on the iron trade of South Wales, where rail-making was a staple industry. The economical production of steel by the Bessemer process has enabled the manufacturer to turn out steel rails at prices which, taking into consideration the much longer life of a steel rail, render them far cheaper than iron. Most of the plant in South Wales is not adapted for steel making. Out of 108 Bessemer converters in Great Britain, Wales possesses only twelve. At the same time it should be re- membered that the Siemens process is largely carried on at Landore and eleswhere. Still the fact remains that while steel is in demand much of the metallurgical plant in Wales must be idle. Nor at the present unreinuner- ative prices can manufacturers be expected to invest capital in the adaptation of their works to the altered requirements of the times. Although steel will be the metal of the future, a new application of malleable iron will probably be found in the substitution of this metal for wood in the sleepers of permanent way. Among the metallic minerals which have contributed largely to the wealth of Wales, a high position must be assigned to the ores of lead. These ores (chiefly galena), occur partly in carboniferous limestone, as in Flintshire and Denbighshire, and partly in the old slaty rocks of central Wales—Cardiganshire, Montgomeryshire, and Merionethshire. Lead appears to have been worked in Wales at a very early period, and Meyrick asserts that "The Ancient Britons wrought the mines of Cardigan- shire probably from their first settlement in Cambria;" Most lead ore, if not all, contains silver, and in some cases this renders the mineral of great value. The silver lead of the Cardiganshire mines was worked by Sir Hugh Myddleton, and yielded him the enormous revenue which enabled him to execute the great work of bringing the new river to London. It is said that from a single mine he drew a clear profit of £2,000 a month. After his death in 1631 the lead mines were worked by Thomas Bushel with still greater success. Charles I., in 1637, granted Bushel the privilege of erecting a mint in Aberystwyth for the purpose of coining the silver extracted from Cardiganshire lead, so that he might have no difficulty in obtaining coin for the pay of his numerous miners, or, as the grant expresses it, for the better encouraging of the poor miner by a more timely and speedy pay out of their own labours." By the courtesy of Mr. Arthur Hughes, of Aberystwyth, several specimens of these ceins are exhibited in the library of the University College of Wales. When the civil war broke out Bushel proved his gratitude to his royal patron by clothing the entire army of the king, by raising a regiment of miners, and by advancing £ 40,000. In 1876 there were 23,226 tons of lead ore raised in Wales, yielding 17,479 tons of lead, and 142,216 ounces of silver. The value of the lead was 2379,293; that of the silver £ 30,815. Brief allusion was made to the effects of lead mining on the pollution of rivers, and to the opera- tion of the recent enactment. Zinc occurs chiefly in association with the lead, and is found partly in the form of a carbonate or calamine and partly as a sulphite, forming the well-known ore termed Blende or Black Jack. Eight thousand two hundred and seventy tons of zinc ore were raised in Wales in 1876; this yielded 2,315 tons of zinc or "spelter," worth £ 54,171. There can be little doubt that copper was worked in the Principality in the time of the Romans. The lecturer referred to the discovery of several cakes of copper in Wales, such as those described by Pennant in his famous Tour," and more recently by Mr. T. F. Evans, of Am- lwch, and bv the Hon. O. Stanley. The latter were found in Anglesey', and it is there that the most important de- posit of copper ore occurs. The history of Parys moun- tain was sketched and the method of cementation or obtaining copper from the coppery waters by means of scrap iron, was explained. Copper ore also occurs in the Carboniferous limestone of the Great Orme's Head and in some of the older slaty rocks of Carnarvonshire but it is not profitably worked. The smelting of copper is largely carried on at Swansea, but the furnaces are not fed with Welsh ores. The history of the Swansea trade has been written by Major Grant Francis, one of the Council of the Cymmrodorion. In 1876 the copper ore raised in Wales amounted to 3,897 tons, which yielded 114 tons of metal of the value of £ 9,496. With reference to gold, Professor Rudler alluded to antiquarian researches which showed that the glittering metal had attracted the eye of the ancient Briton, and that the gold mines of Wales had excited the cupidity of the Roman conquerors. He referred to the old workings at the Gogofau, near Pumpsant, in Carmarthenshire. Of late years gold has been worked in North Wales, and reference was made to the gold fever which resulted a few years ago from the discoveries in Merionethshire. Mr. Arthur Dean, in 1843, discovered gold at the Cwmheisian mine, near Dolgelley, and numerous mines were after- wards opened in the district between Dolgelley and Barmouth, and also near Bala. The gold occurred partly ™ tho Lingula flags and partly in the still older Lower Cambrian rocks. In 1876 only one mine—the Clogau- appears to have been worked. This yielded during the year 288oz. 18dwts., 6gra. of gold, of the value of £ 1,119 10s. 9d. The history of the Welsh gold mines is to be found in the writings of Professor Ramsay, Mr. War- ington Smyth, Mr. Robert Hunt, Mr. Arthur Dean, Mr. T. A. Readwin and others. Mr. Readwin has been good enough to present a series of speciments illustrating the occurrence of Welsh gold to the museum of the University College of Wales. Among 11011-metallic minerals, the most important (next to coal) is slate, the working of which forms the staple industry of North Wales. The geological position of the slates worked in Carnarvonshire and Merionethshire was explained; and the history of slate working was traced. Until quite recently the slate trade has been active, in spite of the general stagnation, but signs of decline are now manifested. Mr. D. C. Davies's recent work on "Slate and Slate Quarrying," was eited to show the advantage of applying scientific knowledge to such iudustries. b Brief allusion was also made to other non-metallic minerals worked in Wales, such as phosphate of lime and barytes, and a passing reference was then made to the paving stones of Penmaenmawr, and to the red clay which has led to the recent foundation of a pottery at Cardigan. Professor Rudler made an urgent appeal to those who were interested in the mineral wealth of Wales to assist him in the formation of a collection at the Museum at Aberystwyth, which shall worthily represent the mineral resources of the Principality. Samples of ores and other mining produce, with specimens illustrating the working of these raw materials into manufactured commodities, a will be exhibited in the technological department, with descriptive labels setting forth their properties and uses. In conlusion, the lecturer insisted on the value of scientific training to those who are about to take part in the development of our mineral industries. In 1845 a paper "On VVerneriaa Schools" was read by Mr. N. Gibson before the Liverpool Cyinulreigyddion Society, iu which he strongly insisted on the importance of establishing mining schoolsjiu Wales. "No part of her Majesty's dominions," says he, "presents a more urgent claim for mineralogical schools than the Principality." Most of the subjects taught in a mineralogical school— mineralogy and geology, chemistry and physics—are now taught at the College at Aberystwyth, and an opportunity IS thus afforded forthe technical instruction of those who are destined to take part in mining and metallurgy. Of these subjects mineralogy is that which biars most immediately on the development of our mineral wealth and yet there are at present but few who avail themselves of the advan- tage of this class. There are many reasons, no doubt, for this. In the first place it cannot be denied that miner- alogy ia not an easy or a showy subject. A student opens a text-book, and is appalled by the crystallographic details with which its pages are necessarily laden. But this need not cause alarm. It is true that the thorough mastery of crystallography demands a good dsal of knowledge of solid geometry and spherical trigonometry, and it is not every young man who is attracted by those rather ill- favoured individuals whom Mr. Tennyson calls The hard-grained Muses of the Cube and Sphere. But for the purposes of the practical man, who is to engage in mining pursuits, it is by no means necessary to dip so deeply into the subject. Nor will a judicious teacher carry his instruction beyond the point at which his class will derive profit from his teaching. When Solon was asked whether he had given the Athenians the best possible laws, he replied, "The bast they are capable of receiving." And in like manner, a teacher of tact will accommodate his instruction to the power and needs of his class. No one then need neglect mineralogy on this score. Another cause which deters ordinary students from attending a mineralogical class is that the science does not pay'' as an examination subject. There is, no doubt, a good deal of truth in this objection; but it is an objection which cannot be urged by the student who requires it for professional purposes-as one of his Brod- studien. Probably, however, the student who is eager to apply his science is repelled by the fact that in mineralogy lie has to learn a great deal which appears, at first glance, unprofitable, which does not seem to bear immediately upon his profession. But this is to take much too low an estimate of science. Its advantages may not be appa- rent until by perseverance much progress has been made but the advantage which a man with a scientific training possesses over another, destitute of such training, is evi- dent enough in the long run, and no one who seeks an intelligent knowledge of mining can afford to be ignorant of so important a subject as mineralogy. As long as we are buoyed up on the high tide of com- mercial prosperity, as long as high prices are ruling the market, and a wide margin of profit is thus left to the producer and manufacturer—as long as this is the case we can, perhaps, afford to snap our fingers at science, and cling to our old-fashioned methods, however extravagant. But when the tide turns, when our manufactures are de- clining, and we find our trade ebbing from our shores, then it, behovas us to learn from science whatever she may have to teach as to the value of new materials, or the economic development of the old. Every day the compe- tition with foreign countries becomes keener, and nothing," said Humboldt, but serious occupation with chemistry and natural and physical science can defend a State from the consequences of competition." We are passing at present through a great commercial crisis, but our hope for the future lies in an intelligent appreciation of the advantages of scientific knowledge. If Britain is to retain her commercial supremacy, it will be by means of improvements in her methods of developing hose vast natural resources which are still at her command. It is as true to-day as it was in the days of Isaiah, that Wis- dom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times." Believing this, it behoves us to offer every encouragement to those educational institutions which are striving to show the application 'of knowledge to the arts and manufactures of our country. A review of the Mineral Resources of the Principality, their present position and their future prospects, has convinced us that technological science must needs take a high place among the things that make for the weal of Wales.







[No title]