In the nineteenth century, 90% of the world’s copper was smelted in the Swansea Valley. As a result of this a number of smaller industries arose out of its by-products.
Arsenic was found in the copper-rich ores brought from Devon and Cornwall. Copper deposits also yielded up lead that in turn could be processed to yield silver. The adoption of Gerstenhofer’s Process, to dispose of noxious copper-smoke, allowed for the capture of sulphuric acid, which could be used in the tinplate industry.
The benefits of diversification are revealed in Stephen Hughes’ Copperopolis, “The massive infrastructure of the neighbouring Morfa and Hafod Copperworks encouraged diversification. Henry Hussey Vivian said, “I had seen the success of our neighbours, the Williams, who were engaged in a variety of undertakings and I resolved if possible to emulate them.” He added silver, zinc, yellow metal and coal mining to the Hafod firm’s activities and by 1854 these were equal to half the firm’s profits of some £56,000.”
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