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Mining
UNESCO Global Geopark

Mining

Sandlodge Mine. Copyright Shetland Museum and Archives Sandlodge Mine. Copyright Shetland Museum and Archives Zoom Metal Ores

With every recent Broch excavation producing evidence of metal working close by, it is evident that Shetland’s metal ores have been used since early times.

Serious mining however did not take place until the start of the 19th century, when mine shafts were sunk at Sandlodge in Sandwick to mine chalcopyrite, malachite and hematite. This proved to be an economic failure, as did successive attempts in the 1870s and 1920s at a second mine at Garths Ness near Quendale. More recently, magnetite was briefly mined during and just after W.W.II, from a remarkable scarn-magnetite mass near Sullom.

Copper workings, Garth Ness. Copyright Allen Fraser. Copper workings, Garth Ness. Copyright Allen Fraser. Zoom Minerals

The most extensive mineral workings in Shetland are around Baltasound in Unst. Numerous pits were dug between the 1870s and 1920s to extract chromite (iron chromate), which was initially used as a pigment and later for steel manufacture. One of these chromite mines was the largest in Britain. Its site, at Hagdale, contains the remains of a horse drawn chromite crushing circle which has recently been restored. It is the last of its kind surviving in the UK.

Hagdael chromite crushing circle, Unst. Copyright Rory Tallack. Hagdael chromite crushing circle, Unst. Copyright Rory Tallack. Zoom

 

 

The rocks of Unst are also a source of talc, which has been exploited intermittently over the past 50 years. They also contain platinum and other rare earth elements, however, like the gold present in several parts of Shetland, these do not occur in commercial concentrations.