FC Camm, Mine Manager St Ives Consols & Geevor, 1926


It has become the custom in recent years for the newly elected President of the Institute of Engineers to occupy the first evening of the Winter session by delivering a Presidential address.

The custom is an excellent one, and it has been popular because the addresses have been of a very high standard on interesting subjects, and no doubt all members of the institute anticipate the evening with real pleasure, and looking backwards over the past few years, I, as an ordinary member freely admit that I have the pleasantest of memories of my predecessors addresses, and further that I have profited much from these.

As your president, however, I must confess that while perfectly willing to face the ordeal, I feel it is no light matter to aquit myself with such credit as the growing tradition of the work done by previous Presidents. I am, however, encouraged by the generous consideration and able assistance of our Secretaries.

I have thought that instead of confining my comments to a particular section of mining engineering, it may not be unwise on my part if I undertake a brief review of the work performed by The Institute during the fifteen years of its existence, and conclude by making some kind of forecast of its operations in the immediate future.

For some years previous to 1911 the Camborne Association of Engineers had done much useful work, in a very modest way, and in a somewhat limited area, where it confined its attention almost entirely to Mechanical Engineering. At that time the late James C. Keast was the President and our old friend, Mr Joseph Blight was the Secretary of the Association. They, supported by the executive, decided that the time had arrived when an endeavour should be made to enlarge their scope of operations. After due consideration it was decided to convene a meeting of Cornish Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, as well as Mechanical, and at that , and subsequent meetings, possibilities were thoroughly discussed and difficulties (for there were difficulties) overcome. The result was that in 1912 the Cornish Institute of Mining, Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineers came into existence, with the common understanding that the name should eventually be shortened to the Cornish Institute of Engineers, the name by which we are known today, and the name under which we members in particular, but engineers in general may claim our endeavours have materially furthered the great modern objective of spreading the knowledge of mining engineering in all its branches. Also a good deal of very useful work has been accomplished by bringing before the notice of the public the actual and potential value of the minerals in the County awaiting development, and I make bold to say that our efforts have benefitted and hastened the advancement of the mining industry of the County to a much larger extent than is generally supposed or the Institute is given credit for.

The original understanding that each of the three section should maintain equal importance has been adhered to, and has worked well. The Council consists of five from each section; and the President is, in turn, a Mining, a Mechanical and a Metallurgical Engineer. It is taken for granted that at the end of my term in office I hand over the reins to a Mechanical Engineer.

A perusal of the first two volumes of our Transactions will show that, at the outset, the hopes of our founders were more than realised. The papers and the reported discussions formed valuable contributions to the engineering literature, some of them having since been referred to, in review, as ‘mining classics’. With regard to the first volume, I regret that our first address by the late JJ Berringer is not reported in detail, but I assure you that the omission is not due to any slackness of efforts on the part of the Executive. The standard set at the beginning has been well maintained, and we may all feel proud of the long list of papers read by our members in this room, and of the exceedingly useful and instructional discussions which they stimulated.

With the outbreak of The Great War in 1914, a series of difficulties began. I am not going to describe those difficulties now, but will be content to say that a very large proportion of our members and associates volunteered for service, and the Institute was naturally deprived of their cooperation for a lengthened period; and that (like every other Institution in the Country) work was further hampered by lessened income and by higher prices, more especially in printing.

However, the slight boom which followed the Armistice was a mere flash in the pan, and gave way suddenly to the saddest period of commercial and industrial depression the Country experienced.

The wonder is that our Institute survived at all, but it has survived and moreover, has performed some remarkable feats under very adverse conditions.

I have done with difficulties, and will now proceed to briefly refer to the work accomplished.

During the early months of 1914 the Institute considerd the importsnce of Geological Observations, and on April 30th 1914 formed a Geological Observations Comitee (see Trans Vol II, pp 6,7,8; also see Exhibition Handbook 1923 pp10,11,12).

Toward the end of 1915 the Privy Council decided to make a substantial grant to assist research in the metallurgy of tin. This subject cropped up in discussion at the general meeting of members on 27th November 1915, and at a Council meeting held on 1st December 1915 the following resolutions were passed; ‘That the Secretary communicate wit the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy intimating that the Council of the Cornish Institute of Engineers would like to be associated with the metallurgical research schemes and are desirous of placing their services at the disposal of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy be drawn to the scheme of Geological Investigations could be included in a larger scheme.’ With regard to the first point in the resolution, it is common knowledge that several of our members served in the Tin and Tungsten Research Committee and contributed largely to the report which was issued.

And regard to the second point, that of the Geological Investigation, although no action was taken by the Privy Council; or the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, the absence of action can be very well excused, because mining companies almost at once proceeded to investigate the geology of the very area outlined by the Institute Committee in 1914:- ‘that very important portion of the Camborne Illogan and Redruth extending from West Tolgus to North Dolcoath and from Carn Brae Hill as far North as Setons and North Pool Mines’

All are acquainted with the results proceeding from the action taken by the miing companies in that area, and I take this opportunity of wishing the companies every success in their work, and the ultimate result will be profitable mines, I think beyond doubt.

Then followed a period during which – at times – it appeared that the Institute might succumb through simple forces of circumstances. Both papers and subscriptions were hard to get. But we struggled through without getting into debt. And in this period the prevailing gloom was deepened by the sad calamity at Levant in October 1919.

The Institute, at their meeting on 25th October sent a resolution of sympathy through the Chairman of Levany (Levant) Mine, and this this was followed by a cheque for £25 towards the relief fund, not a large sum perhaps but many of the members had already subscribed as individuals, and to all events it proved the Institute was still alive.

It was in Feb 1922 that the then President introduced for discussion- ‘the advantages and disadvantages of a comprehensive scheme for the resuscitating of the Mining Industry in the Camborne Redruth mining district, especially within the area yielding complex ores of Tin, Copper, Arsenic and Wolfram.

This called for a series of meetings, and many columns in the press were filled with reports of the President’s exhaustive paper, and the discussions following it.

That the President’s efforts, and the Institute’s support did much to assist in a resumption of operations- now proceeding – will be admitted by us all.

Then in the following year, the Institute organised the Cornish Section of the International Exhibition in London, and successfully carried it through. This action was deemed necessary because the then M.P. for the Camborne Division said in the House- ‘Cornish Mining is dead!’. Well !! The Institute was not dear ! Nor was Cornish mining, as the facts easily demonstrate.

And although other Cornish Institutions were approached by the Exhibition Authorities, they would not act. Consequently the responsibility of carrying out the Exhibition was left entirely to the Institute.

This is fairly recent history, and I do not propose to carry my review of the past any further. We have lived up to our reputation since, and doubtless the last session, 1925-26 was our best, as perhaps our last Summer meeting at Newquay was also our best.

With regard to the future.

First. The Transactions. We have published 3 years volumes in 18 months. There is every possibility of our being in a position to publish a further 3 years during this session. It is also desirable, as soon as we are financialy able to do so, to resume our plan of printing papers in advance. That would increase the value of the discussions.

It is important that the standard of the papers should be maintained. There is a lot of what I may term – youthful talent – in the room. We have always engaged our younger members to prepare papers. Last session saw some splendid efforts in this direction. It is hoped that young men will come forward again this session and follow the excellent example set them last year, and for their encouragement I might say that if they make up their minds to plunge they will not fined the water half as cold as they anticipated.

An immediate effort is to be made further assist in resuscitation of our mining industry. The Council has today made provisional arrangement for the publication of a large edition of a pamphlet on Cornish Mining, the object of which is to distribute widely reliable information relating to Cornish Mines and conditions under which they are worked.

Prospects of extending mining operations in the County.

No doubt most of you have read, and perhaps some of you here know from actual experience, the difficulties of winning Tin in the Federated Malay States, owing to the exhaustion of the richer deposits, and consequently, the lower grade deposits require many more thousands of acres be worked to produce the same amount of Tin as it did in former years, and it is only necessary to cast your mind’s eye over the enormous area that has to be worked every year to come to the conclusion that the life of the tin fields for cheap working is a comparatively short one. The hunt for new tin fields, up to the present has not brought in any tin producing areas, that can be worked profitably, to increase the reserves of tin ore to any great extent; therefore, when it comes to a higher cost of producing tin from the alluvial deposits, it is no longer a serious competitor against lode mining, and the mineral wealth of Cornwall must eventually draw the serious attention of financiers for the production of Tin in particular, and perhaps arsenic and wolfram.

With regard to the future price of tin, I think we are all, far better historians that we arte prophets, but, naturally, if the production is limited, and the demand even keeps to its present amount, there is every reason to suppose that the present, might I say, normal price of Tin – for in fact it is when compared to other commodities – will be maintained. That being so, Cornwall certainly offers the best prospects of profitable mining that we know of; further, it is only necessary to make more widely known the extensive improvements – of mining in general, and milling and concentrating in particular- which have been made on the mines in Cornwall during recent years for the necessary capital to be far more easily obtained for justifiable mining enterprise within the County.

With regard to the concentration and dressing of tin ores, the plants in Cornwall are more economically worked, and by far more efficient in the recovery of black tin than any other tin concentrating and dressing plants I have seen in any other Country.

With regard to tin mining in the West, the present outlook is much better than it has been for a number of years. The Geevor Mine in particular has responded exceedingly well to heavy demands required for capital expenditure; I shall be telling no secret by saying that there was no cash available to carry out absolutely necessary work such as shaft sinking, development and a lot of surface equipment, including the erection of milling and dressing plant, and reconditioning, but I am pleased to say that through the mine responding so well, the whole of that work has been accomplished, and much better efficiency and economical working has been obtained, and at present we are free from all debts, a very good ore reserve and a useful cash balance in the Bank to our credit.

With regard to the Levant Mine, no doubt you read the Chairman’s speech at the recent Annual Meeting, when he stated that a new lode had been cut at the 160 fathom level. Since the date of the Chairman’s speech they have risen on this lode from 160 fathom to 130 fathom level, and the 130 fathom level has been extended and has intersected the same lode, and recently connected with the rise, and I am pleased to say that the lode is a large one and its value appreciably above the average of the mine; in fact, the lode has such a strong appearance that exploratory work has just been commenced at the 160 level with the object of intersecting the lode at that point.

With regards to the Camborne, Redruth and St Agnes areas, you are, no doubt, fully acquainted with the new mining activities through the acquisition of fresh capital; some of the companies reworking, and other companies busy on the exploration of fresh channels. We wish these companies complete success, because it gives great confidence to the investor, and ultimately, a new lease of life to the Cornish Tin Industry.

With regards to the Coal crisis, it has been a very severe blow to Cornish mining, as it offsets the profits there might have been, owing to the very high cost of coal; moreover, the western mines have had to reduce their operations because sufficient supplies could not be obtained. In my opinion, we are fortunate in having a public electricity supply, as that company is in a far better position to carry large stocks of coal, and obtain fresh supplies, than any individual mining company could hope to do so, and during the whole of this coal crisis there has not, to my knowledge been any lack of electric supply, and that can be considered a great economic factor in connection with working of the mines. Praise is not normally lavished on the Electric Supply Company, especially from consumers but on this occasion the credit due to the Electric Company for maintaining the supply is so apparent that it is not wise to withhold it, and at the same time, to say that the supply is now of such a magnitude that it is of a great asset for the future prosperity of the mining districts. The latest news concerning the settlement of the strike is very encouraging, and let us hope that Labour will act with a little more reasonableness than it has hereto fore, and I feel sure that if working man will study his own interests, think over matters carefully, and act accordingly, the political element which seems to have ruled the workmen lately will be eliminated, and far more contented workman will be the result. Consequently, work will be viewed from a different angle than it seems to have been viewed recently.

Sir Robert Home said in one of his speaches ‘Work is a justification of existence; it is the zest of life; a solace for sorrow; the glory of mankind’

A workman in reply said ‘and all along I’ve been thinking it was just a damn nuisance’. While another said ‘my tools, my pick,and shovel, I hate the damn site of them’.