THE Great Orme copper mine has been found to be much more important historically than previously believed.

Instead of being worked on a small scale over a long period it has been shown to have been at the centre of a copper boom lasting for 200 years and was the centre of international copper trade routes.

This was the result of very rich ores being discovered at the site which lead to the development of an extensive export trade being developed throughout the British Isles, including Ireland and stretching as far as the Baltic and Brittany.

Dr Alan Williams of Liverpool University, who conducted the research, said: “This was probably the earliest mining boom in British history.

“We have discovered it may have been as early as between 1600 and 1400 BC during the bronze age.

“The Great Orme mine has long been known as one of Europe’s largest, but its size had been attributed to a small scale, seasonal labour force working for nearly a millennium.

“Instead, it now appears likely that there was large scale copper production for about 200 with its metal reaching across Britain, Ireland and into continental Europe, probably involving a full-time mining community.”

He added: “The evidence for a boom period with metal reaching from Brittany to the Baltic suggests that Britain was much more linked into European bronze age trade networks than previously suspected by archaeologists despite Britain at that time having very few settlements of any size.

“The 200 years of boom is thought to have been from the very rich ores in the centre of the mine, an opencast area and the huge man-made cavern underground and was followed by several centuries of very minor production on the remaining thin minor ore veins producing very little copper.”