Copper Legacy

All heavy industries leave scars on the landscape. Since the 1950s we have begun to reclaim post-industrial landscapes and return them to nature or find new uses for them. 

The former site of White Rock Works, Lower Swansea Valley, now green and quiet (Tehmina Goskar)Reclamation

By the 1950s the Lower Swansea Valley was branded Europe’s worst post-industrial derelict landscape. Tips were taller than houses and the River Tawe flowed with orange toxic water into Swansea Bay.

Robin Huws Jones, a sociologist at the University College of Swansea, often travelled by train through the valley. He felt that something must be done about this ‘century-old eyesore’. In 1961 a pioneering partnership between the university, council, industry and the Welsh Office formed the Lower Swansea Valley Project (LSVP).

Industrial dereliction in Llansamlet, Lower Swansea Valley, 1960s (Media Wales Ltd.)Under the directorship of Kenneth Hilton, LSVP conducted studies of the valley’s geography, economics, botany and communities. It made recommendations for a post-industrial future.

The most visible results of LSVP were the tip clearance and greening of the valley and Kilvey Hill. Volunteers and school children planted thousands of trees during the 1960s and 1970s.

Pollution of waterways also caused problems at Parys Mountain. An ongoing project monitors and controls acidic water from the now flooded mines and is developing ways to treat it.

Wales's Copper Heritage

Reminders of the rich history of Welsh copper can found in our landscape, museums and heritage centres.

O'okiep industrial heritage landscape, Namaqualand, South Africa (© Barry Gamble)The heritage of the historic global copper industry has been recognised as being of world importance. The West Devon and Cornwall Mining Landscape was inscribed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2006. The Namaqualand Copper Mining Landscape, South Africa, partly created by Welsh involvement, was nominated in 2009.

Heritage-led regeneration of copper sites has given new life to other areas as well, such as the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, County Cork, Republic of Ireland, and Burra, ‘Copper Mining Heritage Town’, South Australia.

2011 is a landmark year for conserving the copper heritage of Wales. In January the City and County of Swansea and Swansea University announced a partnership to explore how the 14 internationally significant buildings and features of the Hafod- Morfa copperworks sites can be regenerated.Culture and environment at Parys Mountain Copper Mines, Amlwch, Anglesey (Crown copyright: RCAHMW)

In March, Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust raised nearly £3million to preserve and promote the industrial, social and environmental heritage of Parys Mountain and Amlwch Port.

Cleaning up the Lower Swansea Valley, 1970s (Media Wales Ltd.)

Every tree you see is under fifty years old. We now need to take care of the new natural heritage of the valley.

Steve Lavender, former LSVP Conservator

Download Reclamation / Dadlwytho Adennill Tir (PDF, 799KB)

Download Wales's Copper Heritage / Dadlwytho Treftadaeth Copr Cymru (PDF, 791KB)

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