It is debateable which mineral was the first to attract attention. Iron Age remains have been found in Roxby Beck close to the town, whether Iron Age peoples were attracted here for the fish or the Iron Stone remains to be discovered or perhaps they were after the Jet deposits or all of it. One thing is for sure large quantities of minerals have been extracted here for a very long time and with the Boulby Potash Mine still in operation a few miles away, they still are.
Some places have all the luck because Jet, Iron Stone and Alum Shale are all readily available. At some time in the past the eroding cliffs have exposed all these minerals at the surface. It was a very easy job for the first miners to get at the goodies, however as these easy picking have been removed it has become progressively more and more difficult. Today this has reached the point where it is no longer a commercially viable industry.
Jet is a hard form of coal or more specifically, Lignite. It is hard and shiny with a colour that ranges from a dark brown to black. As rocks go it can be relatively easy crafted into artefacts and has been found as such dating back as far as the Bronze Age. Both the Romans and the Victorians were particularly fond of Jet however you can still easily purchase items made from the local Jet today.
If you fancy find some for yourself the obvious place to start is near the Jet Wyke, lumps of Jet can often be just picked up on the fore shore.
A huge deposit of Iron stone of varying thickness lies just below the surface of much of North Yorkshire and what was Cleveland. Around Staithes this deposit was exposed in the cliff faces as a number of Iron Stone seams and on the fore shore in the form of Siderite (Iron Carbonate)
More to follow later...
This mineral is not exactly easy to get at as it is recovered today in one of the deepest mines in the United Kingdom. The potash is used as an agricultural fertilizer. You can read all about the Boulby Mine at the Cleveland Potash web site.