Ups and Downs
The Good Times & the Bad Times at Minera Lead Mines
In 1885 the price of lead was at rock bottom. Sir Theodore Martin, chairman of the Minera Mining Company, spoke to a packed election meeting:
"This mine has been a mine of great wealth, not only to those who have embarked their capital in it, but also to the working man who found employment there. I have seen the mine's inception, I have witnessed its days of great prosperity and I have watched its days of partial decline, but I have never lost my confidence in the good old mine."
Sir Theodore was not the first optimist to put money into Minera. The mines had always had their ups and downs.
The 1860s were boom times, yet fortunes could change very quickly. A fall in the price of lead or zinc could be disastrous.
In 1872 the Minera Union Mining Company, which had mines to the north-east of the Meadow Shaft complex, had to ask its shareholders to bail the firm out. Their reports on future prospects in the mine betray an air of desperation. The South Minera Mining Company had even less success; ten years of investment and only a few tons of ore to show for it.
In 1887 the Minera Mining Co. faced tough choices. Zinc had been a good source of profits when sales of lead were down.
"It has become indispensably necessary to consider what steps should be taken to restore the prosperity of the mine. The Smelting Companies are, by arrangement amongst themselves, able to dictate the price of blende (zinc). This they have done with such success as to have reduced it to a figure below, in the case of our ores, the actual cost of production."
Consultants were brought in from Germany. They recommended opening a smelter at Minera, just up the hill from the Meadow Shaft. In effect cut out the middleman. Profits of 10% a year were talked of. The smelter opened in 1888, but never made any money and closed within five years.
Money was made at Minera, but much was lost. That was the story of Minera Lead Mines.