La Carolina, 80km north of San Luis.
Meet at the Huellas Cafe-Bar (-32.809330, -66.089433).
All year daily 10-20.
|Guided tours:||L=1,600m, D=90min.|
Huellas, Tourism La Carolina, Calle: 16 de Julio esq. El Minero, La Carolina, San Luis, Tel: +54-265-149-0224.
Municipalidad La Carolina, calle 16 de julio s/n, La Carolina, San Luis, Tel: +54-265-149-0212/14. E-mail:
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|mid 19th cty||accidental discovery of gold generated a small gold rush.|
|mid 20th cty||mine depleted and closed.|
|1997||mine opened for the public.|
|1998||prospection in the mine by the Mining Department.|
The small village La Carolina is located at the foot of Mount Tomolasta (2,018m asl). It was originally named San Antonio de las Invernadas, but in 1794, Viceroy Sobremonte, Intendant Governor of Córdoba del Tucumán, changed it. In honor of King Carlos III of Spain the name was changed to La Carolina. The abandoned gold mine is named Mina de Oro Buena Esperanza, but was opened as a show cave under the name Mina de Oro La Carolina.
The gold was discovered by Don Tomás Lucero from the village. He went to Córdoba with the gold and so the deposit became known and generated a small gold rush. Many gold seekers came to La Carolina and started washing and digging for gold. When the Marquis de Sobremonte heard about the gold, he ordered a study of the deposit. To achieve this he sent a mineral mill and ordered the gold that came from the Carolina mine to be crushed. The Buena Esperanza mine was operated for several decades and followed the the gold bearing ore vein.
The mining activities ended in the 1950s because the deposit was exhausted. The gold bearing veins were mined, and the remaining rest is not profitable. However, some locals still have the dream of quick wealth and every time the river rises, they look for new veins which might be uncovered by its force. They are called pirquineros, independent miners which mine manually and sell their findings to make a living.
The tour is quite straight forward and professional. Local guides prepare the visitors with suitable equipment, rubber boots and helmets with headlamps. It's a 500m walk to the mine and the guide will explain the used tools, machinery and how the mining worked on the way. He explains how the gold was discovered and the river got its name yellow river or gold river. Then the mine is entered, which is completely safe, but not developed with trails or electric light. There is water and mud on the floor. Some remains, like a rusty miner cart, can be seen. The guide explains the working conditions and tells some locals legends and stories. The mine contains dripstone formations, which formed since the tunnel was built 150 years ago. The underground tunnel is 300m long.
It is possible to complete the underground tour with an one hour gold washing in the river. Again suitable equipment like rubber boots, hats for the sun and washing pans are provided. A guide will explain and demonstrate how it works, and help with questions. Obviously a fun for children.
More interesting is probably a visit to nearby Gruta Inti Huasi (Inti Huasi Cave). It is a huge opening in the conglomerate rock, probably formed by erosion by the river. The cave was used as a shelter by the native inhabitants and was excavated some time ago. The back of the cave is not accessible, it is fenced off, but there are explanatory signs about the archaeological excavation and some finds on exhibition.