I spotted the Klondyke mill recently, while climbing to Clogwyn y Fuwch, showing a visiting explorer around. Despite this being my third time up there, I hadn't noticed the mill before- now it seemed pretty obvious, you could see the ruined structures, the buddle pits and the working area from high up on the crags. I quickly stuck a bright yellow mental post-it note onto the inside of my cranium. "Check out the Klondyke Mill" where it quickly became covered with other notes, such as "need more coffee" and "check my Flickr notifications"....
|Looking down from Clogwyn-y-Fuwch...the processing floor is the area without vegetation while the mill is slightly to the right.|
We passed the intriguing remains of the Bryn Cenhadon mine, with quite a lot of spoil tipped. What we explored went on as a glorified opencut for a few hundred feet, the vein disappearing underground via an inaccessible adit. A nice site, worthy of further exploration by SRT. The spoil seemed to sparkle, perhaps from mica or quartz, I don't know. I can confirm though, that it is not a Manganese mine (the OS first edition is marked thus) and looks pretty much like a lead operation. The vein must have been almost at surface.
The path/tramway then starts to run above the gorge until the mill comes into sight. Those Trefriw Trails people would rather you didn't visit the mill, but we made our way off the path down the slippery steep side of the hill. Best to do this in fine weather, by the way! It's possible to make out some vestigial remains of the aerial cableway supports and other sketchy, stone supports as you reach the level of the mill. By now I was sporting several muddy patches where I had fallen, but it didn't matter, we were at the mill. Or were we?
|Petra crosses the plank...|
There is access from the Llyn Crafnant road to the mill, but we haven't tried it- always seems to be choked with cars when we have been that way. So the plank of death is my recommended route, just don't sue me. The mill is a listed building and the site has various paper protections placed upon it, which in reality means that it is allowed to fall to bits with no maintenance or care except for the placing of warning signs hither and thither. There isn't the money or the enthusiasm to conserve the site, but I'm OK with that, I don't want some lead-mine theme park spoiling my abandonment vibe.
There's still enough here for the knowledgeable to interpret and the spoil heaps are impressive in themselves, as is the signature lead mining characteristic of no vegetation. Interesting this...when slate mines are landscaped, you can always tell because the grass grows a sickly yellow/green for decades afterwards. Unless you are the good burghers of Blaenau, who coated the newly-landscaped Glan-y-Don tip with tons of chicken poo for the royal visit in the seventies. Wun puckered wun's nose, I imagine.
Now, the bit you have been waiting for, that tasty scandal. In an age when swindling folk was something of an art form, the Klondyke mine scam was fairly typical, but the perpetrator was caught by the amateur detective skills of Charles Holmes, proprietor of the nearby Parc mine, who claimed he unearthed the scam. Or he could have been sweeping a competitor out of the way. I can do no better than to paraphrase the Wikipedia article here, as it is repeated elsewhere on the web and comes from good sources. This is a sop to recent correspondents who claim bitterly that I am wrong to give links off the site for information, and that they find clicking those links to be onerous.
Aspinall's Klondyke Scam"In 1918 Joseph Aspinall, a man with mining credentials, but formerly an undischarged bankrupt (1912) who had served time in jail for failing to disclose this in 1917, formed the Crafnant and Devon Mining Syndicate Ltd, having purchased the lease from the Trefriw Mining Company. (This payment, incidentally, was not ever made!) In 1920 the Mining Journal of 6 May 1920 carried an article stating that this company had acquired the Trefriw silver-lead mines, where it had struck a rich lode – containing 70oz of silver per ton – in the former prospecting level. The mill machinery was described as being modern and in full working order, with a turbine easily capable of dressing 1500 tons a week. By 1920, however, Aspinall was in prison for running a scam.
In brief, Aspinall made absurd claims as to the potential and output of the mine, and employed many local men to carry it out. His scheme involved the use of the mill building and of the adjacent mine entrance, which in fact contained only a couple of prospecting tunnels of no great length, and where no minerals had been found. Aspinall would entertain prospective shareholders from London, paying for their first-class train fare and accommodation, and take them to see the mine and the mill. On approaching the mine, he would give a friendly hoot on his car horn, which was, in fact, a signal for his "workers" to act their roles. The entrance tunnel to the mine had previously been cleaned, and some 20 tons of lead concentrates (shipped from Devon) were glued to the walls, giving a sparkling appearance. Aspinall had also purchased locally galena concentrates for which he would pay 50% above the ordinary market price. This was he said, for use in a new secret process, but was in fact used to provide some evidence of mined ore. Men guarded the entrance to the tunnel, and others ran around, giving an impression of great activity. In Klondyke mill itself, much of the equipment (a stone breaker and a few jigs) was of virtually no use at all, but Aspinall installed a shaking table, then erected a launder from the stonebreaker to the head of the table. Together with a couple of other pieces of equipment, it all looked the part and made a convincing noise.
Holmes, whose suspicions were aroused by a number of factors, notified Scotland Yard, and Aspinall was eventually sentenced to 22 months in prison for having deceptively obtained some £166,000 from his victims. He subsequently moved to France, where he attempted a similar scam, but was sentenced to 5 years in jail. In 1927 he received another 4 years in jail for an oilfield scam."
The Factoids:Originally known by the far less exotic-sounding name of the Geirionydd Mill, this complex was built in 1899 to process the lead from the New Pandora Lead Mine. The mine was variously known as the Willoughby Lead Mine (1889), Welsh Foxdale Lead Mine (1900), and New Pandora Lead Mine (1913). An impressive tramway was built the 2.8 kilometers from mine to mill, utilising an aerial ropeway to take ore down from the tramway to the mill which was at the valley floor (itself quite a bit higher than Trefriw, the nearest village.)
Sadly, like many similar ventures, the mill never turned a profit, legally or otherwise.
J Bennett & R.W.Vernon (1995). Mines of the Gwydyr Forest, part 6. Gwydyr Mines Publications.
Coflein (off-site link)
|The tramway towards the mill.|