Mintcake mining today.

"It runs deep"

There is now only one official working mintcake mine still producing "get lumps" of raw mintcake and it is located close to High Wray village, just past Wray Castle on the shores of Lake Windermere. It is not open to the public at this time.

The location of other mintcake mines are kept strictly secret by local people and any other evidence of production only really gets noticed during punch ups outside the Bowness nightclubs on Saturday nights in summer. Cumbrian police advise all tourists to steer clear of any local showing signs of the "whyte myst" as it can only end in trouble.

There are typically two types of mintcake mine, the large, cave like, brown mines and the deep, tunnelling white mines. Most brown mines have been exhausted due to their easy access and a great example can be seen above the west shore of Grasmere lake.
High Wray is a white mine, the entrance is just an unassuming manhole cover these days but it reaches 1.7 kilometres down, on a 70-degree angle, under Windermere lake to the mint-face. The shaft varies from around one metre square at the top to thirteen metres across and four high at the face.

The mine head at High Wray

In the past miners would live around the entrance to a mine but this drew attention to the valuable contents so they were either protected by defensive slate buildings called "gerroots" or hidden from view. In more recent times a miner would typically have a wooden or tin hut placed nearby to sleep in, keep watch and store tools & weapons.

Mintcake miners hut (plus Turbo the feline defence system)

Extraction of raw mintcake is still done by hand, using basic tools and equipment. A miner will carefully follow the seam until it's end and this can take a very long time. A law was passed in 1972 restricting mintcake production to 84 "get lumps" in any twelve months. A "get lump", the basic measure of mintcake production, is equal to 16.452Kg, so 1,381.968Kg is the maximum amount of mintcake allowed to be extracted legally per year. The High Wray mine produced just 42 get lumps in 2008. This was mainly due to the credit crunch, a get lump had retained a stable price of 4,625.42 for the last sixteen years but demand has dropped. As of 01.01.09 a get lump retails for 6,159.32 its highest price since the mid 1980's. Locals "in the know" never pay for raw mintcake as it is considered to be "a gift from nature."

Raw Mintcake

Cave-ins are always a worry for mintcake miners. Not so much because they may be crushed but more because they could be trapped and overcome by the "whyte myst" in a confined space. Most mintcake miners can tell gruesome stories of such events from the past.

Raw mintcake has to be washed shortly after extraction to remove any surface debris and any run-off has to be pumped from the mine. If you are lucky enough to come across a milky white coloured stain at the edges of a Lake District beck, give it a sniff. If it smells minty you can be sure of mintcake mining in the area. Several decades ago enterprising local businessman, M.T Gregg had the idea of bottling the minty water as a mouthwash. He soon realised his mistake when, after the very first batch was sold, the hospital reports and solicitors letters poured in. Mr Gregg had to change his name and the product was quickly re-branded as "MT Bottle's Mint Elixir" selling as a cure all and horse liniment. These days mintcake run-off is classed as a grade four dangerous substance not for human consumption.