Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar has visisted the site of the Allihies Copper Mines to see first-hand the possible tourism benefits of the mines being opened to the public.
It is the latest twist in the long history of the west Cork site which is Ireland’s best example of copper mining and now houses a museum detailing the mine’s history as well as a café.

The underground mines have been closed for many years but they first opened in 1812 with just 30 employees.
At their height in 1845, the Allihies Copper Mines employed 1,600 people. Some minor production continued at the site until 1962.
The evidence of this industry is still to be seen all around Allihies in the form of the large Cornish engine houses that housed the steam engines that made the mining possible, constantly pumping out water for deeper and deeper mining, driving winding gear and lowering the miners to great depths, far beyond the level of the ocean.

Mining was also a significant occupation in the Clonakilty area in the past, as our pictures today show.
The mineral baryte or barite was mined in the Ladyswell area. The mineral itself is used in a variety of industries from oil exploration to cement and plastics production.

 

Men at work in the Allihies copper mines in 1957.

 

Workers from the Allihies copper mines in 1957.

 

The product of the Clonakilty baryte mining being shipped out from west Cork in 1955.

 

President Mary McAleese and her husband Dr. Martin McAleese meeting chairman Charlie Tyrill, John L.O’Sullivan and Theo Dahlke at the opening of the copper mine museum in Allihies in 2007. Picture: Dan Linehan

 

Mining for baryte by hand near Clonakilty in 1955.

 

A Cornish engine house looms on the cliffs above one of the entrances to the Allihies copper mines in west Cork in 1956.