The Allihies Copper Mine is one of the last copper mines operating in western Ireland, dating back to 1813. The mine was first operated as an open pit mine, with the miners scooping the ore out of the side of the mountain and smelting it right on the spot. Tailings litter the area around the old mine, a reminder of those days. (We picked up a few as souvenirs, there was no sign warning against this) In the early years, it was back-breaking labor, with the copper ore dug out by hammer, chisel and dynamite. The ore was lugged up to the surface in buckets, to be dealt with there.
In 1830, the first engine was installed on the mountain to draw water out of the mine shafts, allowing the mines to be dug deeper and deeper. It is amazing to stand at the top of the mine and look far below to the sea, and to realize that men once worked a further 900 feet below the level of that far off sea.
The Allihies mine operated until 1882. There is an excellent museum in the village which tells more of this fascinating story.