Cornwall was once produced over 50% of the world’s supplies of China Clay, the raw material used to produce white porcelain and many other common products. However, rising costs and cheaper supplies from countries like Brazil left many projects economically unviable, leaving many pits abandoned. The environmental scars are widespread, in the form of water-filled quarry pits and pyramid-like spoil heaps - created from the millions of tonnes of waste from the clay extraction.

In recent years some spoil heaps have been re-generated, and some mining pits re-developed for recreational uses (like the Eden Project). However, many projects remain in limbo, awaiting a more favourable economic climate, or simply a formal retirement.

In my observations here I’m interested in how the man-made features of the environment have become a metaphor for the economic and social scars left by a declining industry; open wounds exposed to the elements, slowly healing but with any chance of a quick recovery long gone. The spoil heaps rise like shallow graves, ‘nature’ trying to re-claim the ascendency, crudely camouflaging these ‘Cornish Alps’. In some areas wooden stakes - supporting tree saplings - dot the landscape like wooden crosses in a military cemetery, a poignant reminder of the natural cycle of life and death. When one considers the environmental scars that dominate this region, it’s easy to note the irony that China Clay is the primary ingredient in porcelain: used to create beautiful, decorative vases and ornaments. And yet, like the environment, theirs is also a fragile existence.

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