The Island's geological strata consists of heavily mineralised rocks of the Manx slate series, much affected and contorted by tectonic movement. There are exposures of limestone in the Castletown area, red sandstone near Peel, hard granite areas at Santon (Oatlands), Greeba Mountain, Foxdale and Dhoon. The Island's northern plain consists of deep glacial deposits, whilst a very substantial deposit of natural gravel occurs near the Point of Ayre. There is a spar deposit on Granite Mountain, and a form of black marble at Poyllvaish. There is considerable evidence of volcanic activity in antique times at Peel, Langness, Scarlett Point, Howstrake and elsewhere.
Quarrying in early times tended to be extremely localised according to specific requirements, and sites opened and closed accordingly. The quarries at Douglas Head and at South Barrule are thought to be the earliest commercial quarries in the Island. The red sandstone near Peel was extensively used in buildings in that town, but rarely elsewhere. The carboniferous limestone of the Castletown area was more widely used and was employed at Castle Rushen, Rushen Abbey and many other major buildings. The MER company and its forebears became very actively involved in extensive quarrying and opened the sites at Dhoon (SC459871) and Dhoon West, and at Ballajora (SC478911) and as well as supplying the needs of the railway, these quarries provided material for road building and for building purposes; a considerable export trade developed, but seemed to disappear in 1914 and afterward. The larger of the two quarries at Dhoon was taken over by the IoM Highways Board, and ended its days in 1972 under lease to Pochins the contractors. Ballajora Quarry which supplied good building stone, was last worked about 1932, but substantial stocks of stone were still being drawn down well after the Second War. The most important quarries in either active or recent production are: Poortown near Peel,
(SC269832), South Barrule (SC270769), Billown (SC270703) whilst there are many other exposures that have been worked on a purely local or private basis. The main limestone quarries were or are at Ballahot; Billown; Chapel Hill, Poyllvaish, Port St Mary, Scarlett and Turkeylands. The very extensive gravel or shingle deposits close to the Point of Ayre have been worked for many years; extraction reached new heights following the construction of a jetty in March 1927 to load ships directly. The bulk of the gravel exported was destined for Lever Brothers at Bromborough.
Metal ores have been extracted in the Island ever since the Dark Ages and deposits of lead, zinc, silver, copper, umber and iron ore were worth exploitation at various times. Commercial mining, starting shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, reached a peak in the 1880s. The once prosperous and important metalliferous mines of the Island employed over 1,000 workers at their peak. Major ore deposits were found in the Laxey valley together with a number of rich lodes in the Foxdale district, with lesser deposits elsewhere. For some years the Laxey and Foxdale mines were equal to the best lead and zinc producers in the United Kingdom and the silver content of the Laxey ore, rising to 50 ozs per ton of ore, was very significant. Subsequently "Laxey Silver" cutlery became quite popular, although how much of it was genuine is open to some doubt. In addition to lead and zinc, some deposits also included copper too, which was worked whenever it was economic to do so.
The Island's mines were highly productive, producing 6,868 tons of lead in 1885, 11,898 tons of zinc in 1875 and a total of 186,019 ounces of silver during 1877 - the peak years. Towards the end of the 1880s, however, the discovery of vast deposits of cheaply worked high-grade ore in Australia, Canada, Spain and the Americas, brought a sharp reduction in metal market prices. By the turn of the century, many metal mines in the British Isles in general and the Isle of Man in particular were in serious trading difficulties and the depression between 1890 and 1910 rendered many ventures hopelessly uneconomic. The secular decline of the Island's mining industry was a prolonged and painful process only partly relieved by the onset of World War I. The war economy did little to revive lead and zinc mining, but sustained those mines still in operation. The immediate post-war recession, coupled with industrial unrest, brought the last remnants of Island extraction to an end. In protest against a reduction in the War Bonus (an extra payment to cover the increased costs of wartime) the Laxey miners struck on May 26, 1919. They were still on strike nearly three years later when in March 1922 the Great Laxey Mining Company declared bankruptcy. The root problem Was that the mined ore could not be sold at a price that covered the costs of extraction, but a local consortium led by Robert Williamson of the Laxey grocery concern, eventually took up the lease and working on a very small scale resumed. Williamson himself died in March 1927 and final closure of the Laxey mines took place in 1929. Laxey was the last of the Island's mines to be worked and the industry is now extinct.
Fortunately for students of industrial archeology, there is a wide range of significant and interesting surface remains, since many of the mining sites were remote and natural decay and ruin (as opposed to redevelopment) has brought about the only changes in many cases. The following list is a rough guide to the more interesting sites or areas:
BALDROMMA, Maughold; Umber mine 1850-86; few surface remains SC492913
BALDWIN - Barren trial at SC359850; Shafts at SC354812; lead mine 1850-1867, some surface remains. See also Belle Abbey Mine.
BALLAGLASS - Singularly useless lead mine 1854-7 & 1866-7; adit and impressive office/wheelcase remains at SC478906
BALLAJORA 0 Iron mine, 1954-70; few remains at SC478906
BALLANICHOLAS, Foxdale: Trail at SC302749.
BALLERGHY (Also known as Clucas's, Faragher's and Bell's Hole) Highly successful lead, zinc and silver mine 1835-1926: SC280788.
BARONY Copper Mine, Cornaa; dates unknown. Adit and few surface remains at SC473875.
BECKWITH, Glen Rushen: Lead mine 1831-79; operated by IoM Mining Co; significant remains at SC252779; processing area excavated c.1975.
BELLE ABBEY Lead and zinc mine also copper; 1872-8; Shaft of 72 fathoms depth, and deads heap remains at SC224706.
BRADDA MINES - See North Bradda and South Bradda.
BRADDA UNITED MINING CO - See South Bradda
CENTRAL FOXDALE - Major lead and zinc mine c.1820-1900. Operated by IoM Mining Co; Seven shafts altogether, deepest 145f; dispersed site with discernible remains around SC302777. Also known as Far Gin or New Foxdale. This mine also yielded some copper and heamatite at deep level.
CLUCAS'S MINE - See Ballerghy.
CROSS VEIN, Glen Rushen: Engine house and whim shaft remains at SC262780.
CROSS'S MINE, Foxdale: Lead and zinc mine, 1832-90. Twin shafts, deeper at 80f; significant remains with engine house at SC264781.
DHOON (RHENNIE) Maughold; Extended barren trial 1859-69. Significant remains including wheelcase at SC455864.
DIXON'S MINE, Foxdale: Important lead and zinc mine 1835-68, but few significant remains at SC267780.
DRYNANE, Maughold; Ironstone mine 1857-74; sett entrance in cliff 500 yards east of Port Mooar at SC488907. Drynane and some of the other Maughold haematite mines were worked much earlier. In 1700 Drynane shipped 277 tons of ore. Few significant remains.
EAST BALDWIN - See Ohio Mine
EAST FOXDALE - See Central Foxdale
EAST LAXEY - Extended trial for copper, 1866-9; deads heap at SC454897.
EAST SNAEFELL (Also known as North Laxey, North Great Laxey) lead, zinc and silver mine 1856-97 at head of Cornaa Valley. Very significant remains at SC428890; main shaft to 171f, excellently preserved processing area.
FARAGHER'S MINE, Foxdale: See Louisa Mine
FAR GIN, Foxdale - See Central Foxdale.
FOXBELL MINING Co - Tried to reopen Ballerghy 1924-6; See Ballerghy
GLEBE MINE, Maughold: Ironstone 1836-1914; Likely to have been worked at least as early as 1780; adit on Stack Mooar cliff-face; shaft and other remains around SC484927.
GLEN CHASS copper mine; antique workings c.1780 and later. Twin chimneys and deads heaps around SC200670, entrance to adit at Colloway.
GLEN CHERRY, Upper Cornaa Valley. Extended trial for lead/silver at SC431890 with some surface remains; Shaft to 15f with extent laddering piping and decking. Dates unknown but c.1856.
GLEN MAYE lead zinc and silver mine, 1740-1870. Shaft to 50f; significant remains at SC228799.
GLEN ROY zinc and lead mine, 1864-82. Shafts to 122f; significant remains around SC409837.
GREAT LAXEY MINING Co - Lead, zinc, silver, copper mines in Laxey district; substantial surface remains at SC432852 and the Laxey Valley as a whole. Outstanding items of interest include the Laxey Wheel, extensive surface and underground remains as far as Agneish and beyond. Washing floors now converted to public gardens; Parts of certain levels open to access by special arrangement. Main shafts: Engine Shaft (247f) Welsh Shaft (295f) and Dumbell's Shaft (302f). Adit level (60f) partially flooded.
GREAT MONA MINING Co Ltd - See Ballaglass
GREAT NORTH LAXEY - See East Snaefell
GREAT SNAEFELL MINING Co - See Snaefell
HODGSON'S MINE - See Louisa Mine, Foxdale
HOPE copper mine, Maughold. Situated just below Maughold Lighthouse at SC498914.
ISLE OF MAN MINING CO - See Foxdale group, also Foxdale clock tower; this concern operated private owner wagons on the MNR/IMR lines.
ISLE OF MAN PEEL CASTLE MINING Co - See Glen Maye
JONES' MINE - See Louisa Mine, Foxdale
LANGNESS copper Mine: Dates unknown; shaft to 40f, considerable surface remains at SC285664.
LOUISA lead and zinc Mine, Foxdale; also known as Faragher's, Johnson's or Hodgson's mine. Deepest shaft to 200f; important undertaking in production from 1831 to 1902. The Louisa workings were joined to Old Foxdale Mine at the 127 fathom level.
LOWER OLD FOXDALE lead and zinc mine, c.1725-1835 and 1849-1902; deepest shaft 290f; Bawden's Shaft engine house well preserved with considerable surface remains in vicinity of SC282779.
MAGHIE'S lead and zinc Mine, Foxdale. 1834-1880. Shaft to 124f; wheelcase and other surface remains at SC282774 but shaft is obliterated.
MAGHER-E-BRECK Haematite Mine, Maughold. Two shafts 18f and 30f served two connected headings, c.1858-74; some surface indications at SC471905.
MAUGHOLD MINES -Relatively low scale extraction of iron, umber, copper took place in Maughold over a lengthy period. See Ballajora, Drynane, Barony, Glebe and Magher-e-Breck.
NEW FOXDALE - See Central Foxdale
NORTH BRADDA lead, silver and copper Mines, c.1740-1860. Surviving surface remains at SC180707 include engine house, adit, shaft entrance on platform above high water level. Part of this complex has recently been entered.
NORTH FOXDALE See Glen Maye
NORTH LAXEY - See East Snaefell
OHIO CROWN LEAD & SILVER MINING Co - See Ohio Mine
OHIO LEAD MINING Co - See Ohio Mine
OHIO copper lead and silver/zinc Mine, 1860-70; some discernible surface remains at SC360823.
OLD FLAPPY lead and zinc Mine, Foxdale; c.1730-1852 when this mine was connected through to the Old Foxdale workings at 127 fathom level. Insignificant surface remains at SC282778.
PEEL CASTLE & GLENMAY MINING Co - See Glen Maye
RUSHEN MINING Co - See Ballacorkish
SHIMMIN'S VEIN - See Beckwith
SNAEFFLL zinc lead and silver Mine, 1856-1909. Shaft to 171f from entrance adit; highly productive. Toxic fumes from impregnated shaft timbering at 130f level fire killed twenty miners in May 1897, the Island's worst mining disaster. Main shaft partially collapsed in 1908 and total abandonment ensued, although lodes were very rich. Substantial surface remains at SC407875 and vicinity. Spoil heaps were reworked by Metalliferous Holdings Ltd in the 1950s with modern flotation tanks still in situ.
SLOC MINE (Trial, date unknown). Sited at SC211734 but no surface indication.
SOUTH BRADDA copper lead Mine, c.1740-1883; Shaft to 3Of. Like North Bradda, entrance to shaft was on platform 15 feet above high water mark; Remains at SC166697 include engine house.
SOUTH FOXDALE - See Ballacorkish
SOUTH MANX MINING Co - See South Bradda
SULBY RIVER MINING Co - Barren trial 1866-7 at SC389869 where 50ft wheelcase survives.
TOWNSHEND'S lead zinc and silver Mine, (also known as Jones's or Cornelly); 1837-1849 and again from 1878-86; operated by IoM Mining Co, Foxdale. Shaft to 140f; substantial surface remains at SC296794 include enginehouse and boiler room foundations, office and detached Powder House.
UPPER FOXDALE - (or Upper Old Foxdale) lead zinc and silver Mine, c.1720-1902; this mine was later joined to Old Flappy and Louisa Mines at deep level. Some surface remains at SC281778.
WEST BECKWITH - Dates unknown; spoil heap at SC247777 is the only indication of this site.