The Museum of Lead Mining’s aim is to preserve the heritage of this important lead mining region, which encompassed Wanlockhead and Leadhills.

In order to achieve this, we provide a unique, entertaining and educational experience and we can tailor make our tours to suit your educational needs.

We welcome a variety of groups from Schools, Universities, Corporate Days Out and Coach Tour Companies, just to name a few. So why not get in touch with us and we can start your Wanlockhead Experience…

The library


Lump of galenaGalena [PbS] or lead sulphide is the main source of lead [Pb]. It is widespread in the district and is found along with the common vein minerals such as quartz, calcite, barytes and dolomite. Galena has been the most important commercial mineral found in the locality. It was the basis of the Lead Mining industry which was of economic significance, especially during the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Galena crystal group on the left, is an example which was found at Leadhills in the Glengonnar Mine.
Galena is the natural mineral form of lead sulfide. It is the most important lead ore mineral.Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms. It is often associated with the minerals sphalerite, calcite and fluorite.

Lead Ore Deposits
Galena deposits often contain significant amounts of silver as included silver sulfide mineral phases or as limited solid solution within the galena structure. These argentiferous galenas have long been the most important ore of silver in mining. In addition zinc, cadmium, antimony, arsenic and bismuth also occur in variable amounts in lead ores.

Selenium substitutes for sulfur in the structure constituting a solid solution series. The lead telluride mineral altaite has the same crystal structure as galena. Within the weathering or oxidation zone galena alters to anglesite (lead sulfate) or cerussite (lead carbonate). Galena exposed to acid mine drainage can be oxidized to anglesite by naturally occurring bacteria and archaea, in a process similar to bioleaching.

Galena deposits are found in Wales, Germany, France, Romania, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia, and Mexico. Noted deposits include those at Freiberg, Saxony; Cornwall,The Mendips, Somerset, Derbyshire, and Cumberland, England; the Sullivan Mine of British Columbia; and Broken Hill, Australia. Galena also occurs at Mount Hermon in Northern Israel.

In the United States, it occurs most notably in the Mississippi Valley type deposits of the Lead Belt in southeastern Missouri, and in the Driftless Area of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The economic importance of galena to the early history of the Driftless Area was so great that one of the towns in the region was named Galena, Illinois.

Galena also was a major mineral of the zinc-lead mines of the tri-state district around Joplin in southwestern Missouri and the adjoining areas of Kansas and Oklahoma. Galena is also an important ore mineral in the silver mining regions of Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Montana. Of the latter, the Coeur d’Alene district of northern Idaho was most prominent. Galena is the official state mineral of the U. S. states of Missouri and Wisconsin.The largest documented single crystal of galena measured 25 x 25 x 25cm3.

Galena Uses
One of the earliest uses of galena was as kohl, which in Ancient Egypt, was applied around the eyes to reduce the glare of the desert sun and to repel flies, which were a potential source of disease.Galena is a semiconductor with a small bandgap of about 0.4 eV which found use in early wireless communication systems.

For example, it was used as the crystal in crystal radio sets, in which it was used as a point-contact diode to detect the radio signals. The galena crystal was used with a safety pin or similar sharp wire, which was known as a “cat’s whisker”. Making such wireless sets was a popular home hobby in the Britain during the 1930s. Derbyshire was one of the main areas where Galena was mined. Scientists that were linked to this application are Karl Ferdinand Braun and Sir Jagdish Bose.

In modern wireless communication systems, galena detectors have been replaced by more reliable semiconductor devices, though silicon point-contact microwave detectors still exist in the market.


A lump of ChalcopyriteChalcopyrite is a copper iron sulfide mineral that crystallizes in the tetragonal system. It has the chemical composition CuFeS2.It has a brassy to golden yellow color and a hardness of 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale. Its streak is diagnostic as green tinged black.On exposure to air, chalcopyrite oxidises to a variety of oxides, hydroxides and sulfates. Associated copper minerals include the sulfides bornite (Cu5FeS4), chalcocite (Cu2S), covellite (CuS), digenite (Cu9S5); carbonates such as malachite and azurite, and rarely oxides such as cuprite (Cu2O). Chalcopyrite is rarely found in association with native copper.

Chalcopyrite is often confused with pyrite, although the latter has a cubic and not a tetragonal crystal system. Further, chalcopyrite is often massive, rarely crystalline, and less brittle. Chalcopyrite is also a darker yellow in color, with a greenish tinge and diagnostic greasy luster.Due to its color and high copper content, chalcopyrite has often been referred to as “yellow copper”.

Natural chalcopyrite has no solid solution series with any other sulfide minerals. There is limited substitution of Zn with Cu despite chalcopyrite having the same crystal structure as sphalerite.However, it is often contaminated by a variety of other trace elements such as Co, Ni, Mn, Zn and Sn substituting for Cu and Fe. Se, Fe and As substitute for sulfur, and trace amounts of Ag, Au, Pt, Pd, Pb, V, Cr, In, Al and Sb are reported.It is likely many of these elements are present in finely intergrown minerals within the chalcopyrite crystal, for instance lamellae of arsenopyrite representing As, molybdenite representing Mo, etc


SphaleriteSphalerite ((Zn,Fe)S) is a mineral that is the chief ore of zinc. It consists largely of zinc sulfide in crystalline form but almost always contains variable iron. When iron content is high it is an opaque black variety, marmatite. It is usually found in association with galena, pyrite, and other sulfides along with calcite, dolomite, and fluorite. Miners have also been known to refer to sphalerite as zinc blende, mock lead, false galena and black-jack.

The mineral crystallizes in the cubic crystal system. In the crystal structure, zinc and sulfur atoms are tetrahedrally coordinated. The structure is closely related to the structure of diamond. The hexagonal analog is known as the wurtzite structure. The lattice constant for zinc sulfide in the zincblende crystal structure is 0.596 nm, calculated from geometry and ionic radii of 0.074 nm (zinc) and 0.184 nm (sulfide). It forms ABCABC layers.

Its color is usually yellow,brown, or gray to gray-black, and it may be shiny or dull. Its luster is adamantine, resinous to submetallic for high iron varieties. It has a yellow or light brown streak, a hardness of 3.5 – 4, and a specific gravity of 3.9-4.1. Some specimens have a red iridescence within the gray-black crystals; these are called “ruby sphalerite.” The pale yellow and red varieties have very little iron and are translucent. The darker more opaque varieties contain more iron. Some specimens are also fluorescent in ultraviolet light. The refractive index of sphalerite (as measured via sodium light, 589.3 nm) is 2.37. Sphalerite crystallizes in the isometric crystal system and possesses perfect dodecahedral cleavage. Gemmy, pale specimens from Franklin, New Jersey are highly fluorescent orange and/or blue under longwave ultraviolet light and are known as cleiophane, an almost pure ZnS variety.

Crystals of suitable size and transparency have been fashioned into gemstones, usually featuring the brilliant cut to best display sphalerite’s high dispersion of 0.156 (B-G interval)—over three times that of diamond. Freshly cut gems are lively with an adamantine luster and could conceivably be mistaken for a fancy-colored diamond in passing, but due to sphalerite’s softness and fragility the gems are best left unset as collector’s or museum pieces (although some have been set into pendants). Collectors may pay a premium for stones over one carat (200 mg), as clean crystals are usually quite small. Gem-quality material is usually a yellowish to honey brown, red to orange, or green; the two most important sources are the Chivera mine, Cananea, Sonora, Mexico; and the Picos de Europa, Cordillera Cantabrica, near Santander on Spain’s northern coast.


A chunk of goldThe chemical symbol for gold is Au, from the Latin aurum, which means ‘shining dawn’. Aurora was the Roman goddess of dawn which links to the warm, yellow colour of gold. Gold and Copper are the only two non white coloured metals.

Gold and copper were the first metals to be discovered by man, around 5000BC, and together with silver these three metals are found in the metallic state in the earth’s crust. Gold is still mined in its metallic form in over 60 countries around the world.

Gold is referred to as a precious and a noble metal. Gold has an excellent chemical stability with a high resistance to corrosion and oxidation. However, this is just one of the many properties that gold possesses, which when considered in combination with each other have led to a number of exciting and often unique industrial applications.

The purity of gold is measured in Carats. A Carat was originally a unit of mass (weight) based on the Carob seed or bean which was used by ancient merchants in the Middle East. The Carat is still used for the weight of gem stones where 1 carat = 200mg. For gold is is used to measure the purity where pure gold is 24 carats.

The following table shows the range from pure gold at 24 Carats to less pure at 9 Carats.

% Gold
Pure Gold
Gold Alloys

In Europe 18 and 14 carat alloys are most commonly used in jewellery, however 9 carat is popular in Britain.

In many countries the law requires that every item of gold jewellery is clearly stamped with its caratage. Jewellery in many countries is stamped or hallmarked with its caratage. The hallmarking system was developed in London in the 14th century at  Goldsmiths’ Hall.



Argentite Ore

No native silver has been found in the district. However, silver occurs as a sulphide – Argentite [AgzS],  particularly along with gold.  It can also be found with minerals such as galena, copper and sphalerite.  When galena was smelted at Wanlockhead and Leadhills, silver was recovered from the smelting process. It was sent to Edinburgh for the minting of coins and jewellery, and exported to Europe.

Silver is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag (Latin: argentum, from the Ancient Greek: ἀργήεντος – argēentos, gen. of ἀργήεις – argēeis, “white, shining” ) and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. The metal occurs naturally in its pure, free form (native silver), as an alloy with gold (electrum) and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.

SilverSilver has been known since ancient times and has long been valued as a precious metal, used to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils (hence the term silverware), and currency coins. Today, silver metal is used in electrical contacts and conductors, in mirrors and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Its compounds are used in photographic film and dilute solutions of silver nitrate and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants. Although the antimicrobial uses of silver have largely been supplanted by the use of antibiotics, further research into its clinical potential is in progress.