Situated at La Union in the Sierra Minera mountain range
On Tuesday 6th November, forty-four SAMM members and friends led by Maggie Blinkhorn met at the reception centre of the Agrupa Vicenta Mines. First we were taken into the theatre of the reception centre to watch an introductory film.
It started to rain as the train set off up the concrete road from the reception centre to the entrance of the mines. We saw the wind turbines like ghosts appearing out of the rain clouds hanging around the hill tops.
At the entrance everyone was given a white hair net to put on their head under the safety helmets. We had two guides, David and Naomi, who took us into the mine, stopping to explain the history and construction as we walked through the tunnels, showing us its development from 1869 to 1971 when mining ceased.
We wandered down through the four levels of man made caverns, where log structures held the ceiling up and pillars of rock had been left to support the roofs of the tunnels. We were encouraged to imagine the conditions of the miners who were both men and children. Women were not allowed to work there.
At the fifth and bottom level was a lake, which was approximately 5m deep, a rich red color from the pyrite which looked like thick chocolate but had a pH of 2.8.
Over 2,000 years ago the Romans and Carthaginians extracted silver from this area, but more recently these mines were exploited for their lead, zinc, iron and, in particular, pyrite, which is often referred to as “Fool’s gold”. This is because of its likeness to gold in appearance, color and structure. It is an iron sulphide and is used to obtain sulphuric acid.
When we returned to the entrance it was still raining and we all got wet on the journey back down the mountain to the reception centre. In spite of this it was an enjoyable and enlightened morning. Fortunately Maggie had arranged for the whole group to have a Menu del Dia in El Pariente Restaurant situated on the road into La Union. We were all made very welcome by Claudia, the owner, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.
If you would like to find out more about the mines go to www.parqueminerodelanunion.es