The site is reputed to have been worked by the Danes in the 9th century and it has been continuously worked from the 16th century up to 1986 for lead, silver, zinc, copper and barytes. The 19th century workings consisted of a group of mines with names such as Shallee West, Shallee East, Gorteenadiha, Garryard, Cortshanneroe,Knockanroe, Ballygowan and Cooleen.
There are several distinct sites to be visited. Just at the top of the main street of Silvermines village is a footpath by the school which leads to an old Cornish engine house and dressing floors. Most of this is overgrown and little can be seen. Further over, a set of more modern buildings can be seen with a concrete capped shaft.
Travelling away from the village, spoil from a large opencast barytes mining operation can be seen. This appears to be a large quarry with spoil tipped above the hole. In the base of the quarry an underground working leads off but this is thought to be collapsed. It would be worth obtaining permission to visit the site. On the opposite side of the road there is the site of a former drift mine. The area is well fenced and gated but most of the buildings have been flattened and the adit is collapsed. The only sign of mining is the large raised tailing bed, which is about 8-10ft above the natural landfall and about a mile square. This gives some indication of the former mining operation.
Further down the road remains the most interesting part of the area, where there are some old Cornish engine houses covered with ivy. Fences of gorse and bracken indicate where the shafts and stopes are sadly all filled or collapsed. Across the fields, there are signs of spoil and open cuts but none lead to anything. Also on this site are several modern buildings, some of which were obviously laboratories with lots of old chemical containers strewn around. Several of the buildings are used to store literally thousands of core samples on racks of trays up to ceiling height. These were from the now defunct mining operation, during which part of the mining method was to take regular core samples from the mine for the geologists to determine the best places to work. The old mine manager's house is beginning to deteriorate badly, the roof is still intact but the floors are rotting and collapsing.
The only accessible mine workings are in the quarry behind these buildings. These consist of large pillar and stall workings with about a mile of passages. The floor is very wet and muddy and two flooded inclines can be seen. In two places the pillars have been robbed an the roof has started to collapse. There are a series of upper levels but most of the floors have been quarried away.
Modern mining operations between 1968-1984 extracted 10,783,859 tons of 2-7% lead (Pb) and 7.36% zinc (Zn). By 1985, the site had produced 4 million tons of 85% barytes (BaSO4). The known reserves are 6,894,929 tons of 2.26% lead and 4.98% zinc.
See Cole's Memoir page 123 and 146 for the older historical details.
Shannon Development Company are involved in a project to convert the Shalee Mine at Silvermines into a tourist attraction, details are available at their website http://www.shannonheritage.com/ShalleeSilvermines/index.html
Added to MHTI WebSite March 11th, 2001
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