In 1689, Spain sent explorers to VG to search for gold, copper and other precious elements, which were earlier donated to King Ferdiand and Queen Isabella during the voyages of Columbus and others. At that time, copper was the most valuable metal, since gold was scarce. They excavated and collected as much as they could salvage from the Coppermine. The findings were shipped back to Spain, from Taylor’s Bay.

Since the population of the island, at that time, was less than 100, assistance was solicited, from the Dominican Republic. The DR was the drop-off area for slaves, being brought across from Africa. Those who didn’t seem to have the stamina to make the trip to the US, were dropped off at the DR and distributed throughout the Caribbean islands, to work at various sugar plantations, cotton fields and banana farms. Slaves were not allowed to dig for precious metals, because the Spaniards thought they would steal some of it and become rich. The economy of the DR was also struggling, so several men volunteered to come to VG to work at the mine. Thinking that the Mine would yield an abundance of wealth, the Spanish government offered payments for all laborers. The men, who came from the DR, set up camp in The Valley, a short walk away from the worksite at the Coppermine.

There were so many of them, which far outnumbered the natives, that the area was jokingly called “Spanish Town”. Needless to say, the name became official. The area became such a hub, for people desiring to work at the Mine, that the first immigration center and peace-keeping organization (government) was established there, to keep track of the bustling community. Some men would work for 6 months, or up to a year, then returned to the DR. At the same time, their replacements were arriving. After about 20 years, the Spanish government determined that the Mine was no longer yielding enough for a significant amount of profit, so they ordered the operation to close down. Everyone returned to their respective countries. For this reason, the relationship between the British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic has always been one of brotherhood. Warm and friendly. This is also the reason why many BVIslanders have relatives in the DR.

A short time after the Spanish ceased operations at the Coppermine, some travelers from Cornwall took an interest in reopening the Mine. They brought machinery, which they thought would make mining easier and more productive. They soon realized, however, that the Mine had been depleted and, after a mere 5 years, decided to discontinue operations. As they were preparing to ship the last of their equipment back to Cornwall, word spread that gold was struck in the western US state of California ( the historic Gold Rush). Abandoning everything, the whole crew rushed off to find their fortune. There you go! From a former member of the Coppermine Historic Society, who reads everything about the history of VG that I could put my hands on! I even added extra information! You’re welcome! ??❤


Credit: Bev Panizzi