Wheal Fortune lies on Cusgarne Downs, at the eastern end of the parish of Gwennap, on the hillside above the stream which divides it from Kenwyn Parish. From 1819 it formed the easternmost part of the Great Gwennap Consolidated Mines, which for a time in the early nineteenth century was the largest copper mine in the world. Although it undoubtedly worked for tin at an early period, it was as a copper mine that it became important, during the heyday of mining in the last part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth century. For most of its working life the mine was associated with Cusvey, the mine sett which lies to the south-east of Wheal Fortune, and so most of the historical background to Wheal Fortune is the same as for Cusvey Mine.

The earliest record found to mining on the site is a reference to mine dues for Cusgarne, including 'Cuzveth', and is from accounts dated 1734-64. A Plan of Cosgarne Common in Gwennap Parish drawn about 1780 shows nothing at Wheal Fortune, but includes Bread and Cheese Lode, worked across the valley at Nangiles Mine, and shows it running into the Cusvey sett, and apparently worked there. Below Wheal Fortune, close to Woolf's Shaft, tin streaming is shown, with a couple of leats and a set of stamps. C. C. James wrote that mining actually started at Wheal Fortune in about 1790, which appears to be a little late, for the appendix to the 'State of Copper Mines' report, dated 1799, includes the figures for Wheal Fortune from 1792 to 1798, and indicates a well-established and fairly large mining operation. Between 1792 and 1796 the mine suffered a loss of over £7,000, but in 1797-98 it made a profit of nearly £12,000.

Richard Thomas' 1819 map of the Camborne to Chacewater mining district shows the workings of Wheal Fortune and Cusvey ('Coosvea'), and his text shows them to be working as one mine. The branch from the County Adit into the main workings of Wheal Fortune is also shown. He wrote that Wheal Fortune was 140 fathoms below adit level in 1819, which was a considerable depth to have been sunk if it had only worked since 1790, especially as Thomas wrote that the mine "was very productive - has been idle many years." He adds, "now forms part of the Consolidated Mines." In 1819, John Taylor, the highly successful mining entrepreneur, obtained leases for all the mines along the strike of Wheal Virgin lodes, from Carharrack in the west to Wheal Fortune in the east, and worked them under the old name of Consolidated Mines.

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The 1821 plan of Consolidated Mines, shows extensive surface arrangements, indicative of a mine which had been worked on a large scale. Numerous shafts, extensive copper dressing floors, bucking sheds, engines, coal yards, carpenters' shops and blacksmiths' shops, are all shown, together with a large account house. Unusually for such an early period, 'changing huts' or a miners' dry, was also shown.

On the 1821 plan there are two engine shafts shown, West Engine Shaft, to the west of Chapel's Shaft and Bawden's Engine Shaft at the eastern end of the main workings. Woolf's Engine Shaft was not shown, as it was not sunk until the mid-1820s, when a second-hand 90-inch engine was erected there in 1826. In the Cusvey section two shafts are shown, Coosvea Shaft and Coosvea East Shaft. Coosvea Lode was also depicted, confirming that it was the same lode as is seen on the 1780 period map as 'Bread and Cheese Lode'.

The story of Consolidated Mines after 1819 was spectacular. By 1823 it was rivalling Dolcoath for production, and until 1840 its copper ore tonnages were the largest in the world. John Taylor also took over United Mines from the Williams family, but in 1839 he failed to renew the leases, and both United and Consols were again in Williams hands. At one time the combined mines employed over 3,000 workers. In 1858 the combined mines closed, by which time production had exceeded 442,000 tons of copper ore, which had sold for nearly £3 million, in less than forty years. In 1861 a new combination Clifford Amalgamated was formed, consisting of Wheal Clifford, United and Consols mines. During the next eight years the group raised 105,000 tons of copper ore, which sold for over £473,000. It also sold black tin, blende, iron pyrites and arsenic.

In 1870 Wheal Fortune and Cusvey were abandoned. The engines and machinery were sold or scrapped and the buildings and dressing floors fell into ruin.

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