Gold Mine

Gold was mined in Linlithgow (Scotland), Cornwall (England), and other British Isles locations. Melting was necessary for this form of native silver as it is found in a form of leaves or filaments.

Britain's gold mines were located in Wales at Dolaucothi. The Romans discovered the Dolaucothi vein soon after their invasion, and they used hydraulic mining methods to prospect the hillsides before discovering rich veins of gold-bearing quartzite. The remains of several aqueducts and water tanks above the mine are still visible today. The tanks were used to hold water for hushing during prospecting for veins, and involved releasing a wave of water to scour the ground and remove overburden, and expose the bedrock. If a vein was found, then it would be attacked using fire-setting, a method which involved building a fire against the rock. When the hot rock was quenched with water, it could be broken up easily, and the barren debris swept away using another wave of water. The technique produced numerous opencasts which are still visible in the hills above Pumsaint or Luentinum today. A fort, settlement and bath-house were set up nearby in the Cothi Valley. The methods were probably used elsewhere for lead and tin mining, and indeed, were used widely before explosives made them redundant. Hydraulic mining is however, still used for the extraction of alluvial tin.

Long drainage adits were dug into one of the hills at Dolaucothi, after opencast mining methods were no longer effective. Once the ore was removed, it would be crushed by heavy hammers, probably automated by a water wheel until reduced to a fine dust. Then, the dust would be washed in a stream of water where the rocks and other debris would be removed, the gold dust and flakes collected, and smelted into ingots. The ingots would be sent all across the Roman world, where they would be minted or put into vaults.

Locations of Gold Mines in Roman Britain