Copperopolis - world copper project comes to Swansea

Swansea was the heart of the world copper industry. This week, the city - once known as Copperopolis - again becomes a global hub for copper, as it hosts a conference about Swansea’s role in this worldwide industry, with experts from Chile, Australia, North America and Germany.

Swansea was once the heart of the world copper industry.  Understanding the city’s role and importance is the aim of a unique project, which brings together experts from Chile, Australia, North America and Germany at a conference in Swansea this week.

World of Copper is an eighteen-month research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which looks at Swansea’s world-renowned copper industry as an example of globalisation in the nineteenth century.  Swansea University, together with the University of Glamorgan, is hosting the project’s first conference, from 12-14 April.

Dr Louise Miskell, lecturer at Swansea University, and an expert on Swansea’s history, who is speaking at the conference, said:

Many of us work on the history of the Swansea copper industry. This will be the first opportunity that we have had to engage directly with experts on copper from around the world.

The exchange of knowledge and ideas with this extensive network of scholars has the potential to make a huge difference to the way we understand Swansea's pivotal role in this global industry.

Dr Chris Evans, who leads the project at the University of Glamorgan, said:

“Between 1830 and 1870 the Swansea district in South Wales became the hub of the world’s first globally integrated heavy industry.

Swansea’s copper smelters, who often accounted for 40% of world output in these decades, drew ore from Australia, Chile, Cuba and elsewhere. ‘Swansea copper’ was a truly global phenomenon, involving mining complexes on different continents and the mobilisation of capital, labour and technology across immense distances.

Participants will hear about how Cornish miners swarmed across Latin America in search of copper ores for Swansea, how copper linked Wales to mining districts in Waterford and Cork in Ireland, about how copper smelters in the United States eventually managed to take global leadership in the copper trade away from Swansea. 

Information about the World of Copper project can be found here