CC BY-SA, © Donald MacDonald
When the Edinburgh Geological Survey analysed a sample of sandstone from Lochaline in 1923 they found one of the purest deposits of silica sand in the world. Despite this it was not mined immediately- imported silica sand was quite cheap and the venture was not considered economic. When World War Two broke out, however, these imports were cut off. At the same time demand rose as pure silica was needed to produce high quality glass for periscope lenses and gun sights, and Lochaline mine was opened.
In the beginning sand was shipped out by puffer boat to be processed elsewhere, until a loading and processing facility was built at the West Pier (the plant was moved to its current location in the 1970s). An attempt to use horses to haul the sand out was a failure and so diesel locomotives were used instead, though today articulated dump trucks are used to take the sand to the processing plant. Lochaline sand mine shut down in 2008 but reopened in 2012 under new ownership.
More information on visiting the area can be found here.