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Carrock Mine, Cumbria: Mining For Tungsten

The miracle metal without which Britain may have lost the war

In the shadow of Blencathra in the Northern Fells of Cumbria is a mine that gave Britain a cutting edge on the battlefield.

It was here that tungsten was found, a miracle metal, which is as dense as gold, has an incredibly high melting point, and is only second in hardness to diamond. These unique properties made it a vital component in the manufacture of armour plate for ships and machine tools in the munitions industry.

The Germans appreciated the strategic significance of tungsten and worked Carrock Mine until the outbreak of World War One.

With the outbreak of hostilities the British government stepped in and took it over ensuring the mine worked flat-out for the war effort. So began a remarkable race against time to mine tiny quantities of the tough metal from some of the hardest rocks in Britain, which could win the war for Britain.

The Wolfram deposits were exploited in World War Two and worked until 1981, when the price fell on the world market, and it was no longer economic to extract it.

But large amounts of valuable minerals remain underground awaiting another national emergency for their worth to be recognised again.

Location: Carrock Mine, Mosedale, Cumbria CA11
Image courtesy of the Beamish Museum

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