The official government collection and publication of details of the output of the British mineral industry was instituted in the 1840s under the auspices of the Geological Survey and Museum, directed by Sir Henry de la Beche. We have discussed the development of the ensuing series of annual publications, which have continued down to the present day, at some length elsewhere. It is useful, however, to outline the main stages of that development. The work was conducted by the Mining Record Office, which was initially part of the Geological Survey and Museum, and was effectively the responsibility of Robert Hunt, Keeper of the Mining Records. The first published series, relating to the output of copper and lead, principally in the years 1845 to 1847, appeared in Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain and the Museum of Practical Geology in London Vols I and II, (H.M.S.O. 1845 and 1847). This was regarded at the time as a limited exercise and no commitment was made for the publication of further annual series. In 1853, however, Hunt took the opportunity to update and extend these earlier series in a volume published by the Geological Survey, under his name, entitled Records of the School of Mines and of Science Applied to the Arts, Vol. I Pt IV. In that same year a Treasury Committee inquiring into the working of the Geological Survey and Museum reported favourably on the activities of the Mining Record Office and recommended that its activities should be placed, 'on a more regular footing'. This signalled the beginning of the regular collection and publication of a widening range of data relating to mineral extraction and related manufacturing and transportation.
The first of the new annual series, published under the title Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain and of the Museum of Practical Geology: Mining Records: The Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, appeared in 1855 and was for the year 1853, so continuing an unbroken run for some production data, eg lead and copper, from 1845. Thereafter the volumes were published by the Geological Survey in unbroken series until 1882, usually appearing in the autumn of the year following the record year. Robert Hunt retired following the preparation of the 1881 volume and the opportunity was taken to reorganise and consolidate the now considerably expanded range of data collection. This was done by transferring the Mining Record Office from the Museum of Practical Geology to the Home Office, where the Mine Inspectors, established by the Coal Mine Inspection Act of 1850, had for many years been publishing a similar range of output data in their annual reports. In particular, the Coal and Metalliferous Mines Regulation Acts of 1872 had required all active mines in the country to furnish the Mines Inspectorate with details of their output and employment and it was thought wasteful to continue the collection of voluntary returns and computations of the Mining Record Office alongside these.
The first of the new series, which was prepared by Hunt's old staff and closely followed the format of the earlier publications, appeared in 1884 under the title The Mining and Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for 1882 and was produced, unlike its earlier counterparts, as a Parliamentary Paper. The following year the title changed again to Summaries of the Reports of the Inspectors of Mines to Her Majesty's Secretary of State, and the Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, including Lists of Mines and Mineral Works and for the years 1884 to 1887 inclusive they appeared annually as The Mineral and Mining Statistics of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, including Lists of Mines and Mineral Worked. During these years the volumes included returns of a) the quantity and value of all minerals wrought b) the numbers of people employed in and about the mines and open works c) the number of fatal accidents in the mines d) a list of the mine owners, managers and agents e) a list of the recorded plans of abandoned mines that had been deposited at the Home Office f) an appendix showing the production of minerals in the British colonies and possessions.
From 1888 to 1896 the returns appeared as The Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the Isle of Man and this time the change in title was accompanied by important changes in the content. The details of accidents in the mines, previously held over from the early annual reports of the Inspectors of Mines, were dropped for separate publication, as was The List of Mines, a regular appendix of the names of the mine owners, agents, managers and numbers employed, which had been included at the back of The Mineral Statistics since 1853 for coal mines, 1859 for most metalliferous mines and 1863 for Iron mines. Finally in 1897 the title and content of the annual returns were changed to a format that they were to keep through to the First World War. For that year the volume appeared under the general title Mines and Quarries: General Report and Statistics. It was divided into four separate sections, Part III containing details of output and being subtitled General Report and Statistics Relating to the Output and Value of the Mineral Raised in the United Kingdom, the Amount and Value of the Metals Produced and the Exports and Imports of Minerals.
It is notable that until 1897 the 'Clerks of the Mineral Statistics', who had responsibility for preparing the publications, were still largely the same men that had worked with Robert Hunt from the earliest days of the Mining Record Office. This provided a strong element of continuity and an unparalleled wealth of experience in collecting and editing the material. Following Hunt's retirement in 1882, the new Home Office department had been jointly run by Richard Meade and James B. Jordan. Meade had originally been appointed by Hunt as early as 1841 and had been joined by Jordan in 1858. Meade retired from the Home Office in 1889 but Jordan continued until 1897, so consolidating a period of more than half a century's data gathering under three close associates.