The Gwennap mining district in Cornwall, in the southwest of the UK, described in the eighteenth century as the ‘richest square mile in the old world’, was the setting for this journey into an historical process that assembled the powers of geology, mechanics, hydraulics, mineralogy and metallurgy, salvation and combustion, steam and capital into a mighty, infernal machine that traumatised the Cornish landscape and kickstarted the industrial revolution.

Visiting lesser-known sites where these components interacted and evolved during the height of the mining trade in Cornwall, we discovered what lies beneath the tourist emblem of the abandoned engine-house. With the guidance of rogue scientists, agrosophists and geophilosophers, we uncovered the complexities of subterranean poetics and aesthetics, and confronted the industrial behemoth that made the earth scream.…