Shetland’s Mining History

Skimming through pages of the Caledonian Mercury, Sept. 1790, the newspaper highlights Shetland’s early commercial mining attempts. “…the value of the Shetland Islands is only beginning to be known. There is now a number of miners sent … to work a copper and iron mine lately discovered…in the estates of Sumburgh and the iron in the estates of Quendale, both the most productive of this kind of any discovered in Britain.”

quendalemine01

    Photo: From 1790, the Quendale Copper Mine as it looks today

Naturally, this single report can raise eyebrows and give questions about Shetland’s mining history. The unlikelihood of a small North Atlantic group of islands being given such recognition is surprising, but the story behind this fact contains elements of rivalry, power, ignorance and years of blind investments leaving scars of disappointment in its wake.

Roots
It is difficult to point out exactly when Shetland’s mining history began. As early inhabitants crossed the hills and walked the shores of Shetland, they learned about rocks and stones, where these could be found and how these could be useful. Continue reading