With so little surface evidence, it is hard to imagine that the headland of Bradda is honeycombed with lost shafts and passages from the mining years. The majestic cliffs rising from the sea to over four hundred feet have yielded their secret to man throughout thousands of years of searching for metals first using a technique known as fire setting.
The vein runs through the headland in a north south direction and the mine is divided by a small bay just beyond the headland isolating the north workings from the south.
Visible from the southern side of Port Erin, lies a deep wound in the cliff where ancient man first worked with the most primitive of tools to extract copper. This side was certainly worked as early as 1200 BC by the setting of fires against the mineral rich quartz vein. The quartz, having been heated to several hundred degrees would be quenched with water causing the mineral to become very brittle, allowing the early miners to easily chip away at the face using stone hammers known as mauls.
Later workings in the form of small openings can be seen on the upper northern cliff face where the monks had ventured underground in the 13th century. The workings are scattered over a wide area and although it is known that there are parallel veins running through the headland, it is likely that other shallow workings lie further inland.
Serious Mining commenced in the early seventeen hundreds by the sinking of shafts which eventually went below sea level and prompted the need for pumping. It is unknown how the mines would have been kept dry in the early days but in the eighteen hundreds, a Cornish style engine house was built into the cliff face at north Bradda to pump 200 gallons per minute from from a depth of 432 feet.
Connecting the north and south mines is a legendary level along with a series of higher workings in the cliff that are yet to be found. There were over fifty men employed to work underground in the 1880ís and about the same again to work on the surface. Mining operations finally ceased in 1904 after being worked by only four men for the last few years. Today, the mine is still being worked but not productively. Excavations have been going on for seven years by the mines research group with a view of locating six of the hidden shafts on the surface.
The excavation is sixty feet in to the cliff just above high water and the waste rock is being trammed out using an end tipping ore truck. It is hoped to gain access to the higher workings and through to the south side so that the remainder of the mine can be studied.
Exploration of the mine has been taking place for over thirty years but only recently and with more modern equipment have some of the far reaches of the known mine been explored.