Tin mining in Cornwall is believed to date from as early as 2150 BC and there is a written account from the first century BC (Diodorus Siculus). The demand for tin in this period had grown as tin together with copper produced Bronze. The Romans certainly used Cornish tin but Roman influence was very limited in West Cornwall so whether they actually mined it there or simply purchased it from local miners is open to debate.
Most tin in this period was produced from alluvial deposits and true lode mining did not commence until the Middle Ages. Up until the early eighteenth century tin was the only metal mined in Cornwall and the smelting of copper or brass making was probably unknown. That rapidly changed as huge copper deposits were found and copper mining became the largest mining operation in Cornwall and this continued until the end of the nineteenth century. Despite this fact Cornwall is best known for its tin mines. Cornish copper deposits were the largest in Europe and the then civilized world. Because of the coal needed to smelt copper, very little copper smelting as opposed to mining took place in Cornwall, instead the ore was shipped to Swansea for smelting.