Parque Minero de Almadén


Useful Information

Location: Almadén (Ciudad Real).
A-41 highway exit 180, CM-4110, CM-415. CM-4200 Badajoz-Chillón-Almadén. N-502 Córdoba-Almadén.
(38.775064, -4.842927)
Open: MAY to SEP Tue-Sun 10-14, 16:30-19:30.
OCT to APR Tue-Sun 10-14, 15:30-18:30.
[2021]
Fee: Adults EUR 14, Children (6-15) EUR 11, Children (0-5) free, Seniors (65+) EUR 12.
Groups (12+): Adults EUR 12, Children (6-16) EUR 10, Students EUR 10, Seniors (65+) EUR 19.
[2021]
Classification: MineMercury Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: VR=700 m.
Guided tours: D=2.5 h, L=900 m, VR=50 m.
Photography:  
Accessibility: surface yes, mine partly
Bibliography: Rafael Gil Bautista (2015): Almaden Mines in the Modern Age, pp 418, 24x18cm, 23,00 €, Español - Spanish.
Address: Parque Minero de Almadén, Cerco San Teodoro, s/n, 13400 Almadén (Ciudad Real), Tel: +34-926-26-50-02, Fax: +34-926-265-008. 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.

History

1525-1645 leased by the Fugger family from Augsburg, the German bankers.
1752 miners' homes Plaza de Toros built.
1754-1800 prisoners are forced to work at the mine.
1774 San Rafael Mining Hospital opened.
1777 Academia de Minas (Academy of Mines) founded, the first School of Mines in Spain and the fourth in the world.
1835 regular mercury auctions held in London boosted production.
2001 mining stopped due to health and environmental problems and European legal limitations.
2003 mercury mine closed.
2006 first visitors in the mine park.
JAN-2008 mine park officially inaugurated.
2008 declared an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Ministry of Culture of Castilla La Mancha.
2012 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Geology

cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide, HgS).

In the mine cinnabar (HgS, mercury sulfide) was mined which constitutes the largest mercury deposit in the world. The production of the Almadén mines has been more than double that of the second largest at Idrija in Slovenia and almost four times that of the Italian mines of Mount Amiata. The cinnabar is associated with quartzites and volcanic breccias, less frequently it is in massive form and rarely crystallized. In some areas elemental mercury was found, but it was very difficult to mine because it is liquid.

Description

The Parque Minero de Almadén (Almaden Mining Park) is a show mine which was created in a former mercury mine. The mine is said to be the oldest mine in the world, which is obviously untrue, but it is actually mined since Roman times. It was probably started by the Phoenicians, or more precisely by the Carthaginians, but the earliest documents are from the 4th century BC after the Roman invasion. This makes it the oldest mercury mine. During the Muslim occupation it was first named Almadén. After the reconquest in the 12th century the mines were given to the Order of Calatrava. And it was operating until recently, the mine was finally closed in 2003. Together with the mercury mine in Istrija in Slovenia, this mine is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There is a Visitor Center, a museum, numerous mine buildings and exhibits on the ground, and an underground tour.

The Visitor Center is located on the first floor of the main building. Beneath the infrastructure like ticket office and restrooms, it has numerous exhibits for a first orientation. There is a general model of the facilities, which gives a good overview. One room with a mine presentation is the first introduction into the mining basics. And the El Malacate is a restaurant and cafe offers local specialties. A real spectacle is the artwork Lágrimas de lluvia (tears of rain) by Javier Velasco in the Visitor Center. The gigantic installation of a pool of mercury with glass tears raining down on it was made with 4 tons of mercury.

The guided tour of the Almadén Mining Park starts with the surface mining facilities at the Visitor Centre. It includes the old workshops and the San Aquilino and San Teodoro shafts. After a visit of the Mining Interpretation Centre, the underground tour follows. Back on the surface the Aludeles furnaces (17th century), the Gate of Charles IV, the cart gate with its carriageway, the tile kiln, and then the Mercury Museum are visited. Then the visitors return to reception centre by electric minibuses.

The Mining Interpretation Centre is located in the old compressor building, an unpretentious industrial building from the 1920s, which has a rectangular floor and only one level. Exhibits, explanatory signs, and audio-visual displays explain the different exploitation systems during different periods. The basic mining related and mineral extraction tasks, like draining, lighting and cinnabar transport to the surface are explained. There are also some remains of the electric system, the generators are gone though.

The underground tour is going down the San Teodoro shaft in a miner's cage to the 50 m deep 1st level. Visitors are equipped with helmets and with headlamps. Walking 900 m through a real mine, which was operated in the 16th and 17th century, the historic mining conditions are explained. Exploitation areas from the 17th, 18th centuries include branch drifts, overhead stopes, open pits and bench exploitations. The Baritel de San Andrés is a hoist or headframe, which was used to lift miners and ore, In the prisoner gallery criminals were led to work in the mine from the prison. Nearby a prison was built and between 1754 and 1800 the prisoners were forced to work at the mine. The miners at Almadén were not very lucky. The continuous contact with the highly toxic mercury caused mercury poisoning, which was very painful and deadly. As a result convicts, so-called forzados (forced labourers), and slaves from North Africa were used during the 16th and 17th century. The visitors return to the surface with an electrical mining train along a tunnel from the 20th century. Originally used for ore transport with carts, it is now equipped with seats.

The Mercury Museum is dedicated to the metal itself. Interactive physics and chemical experiments with mercury show its exceptional properties. It also has an exhibition on the geology and palaeontology of the area. In the basement the history of its use and the transportation to America are explained. The mines became particularly important in the 16th century due to the rich gold and silver discoveries in the New World. Mercury is used to filter tiny gold and silver flakes out of mined rock until today. The museum was installed in the old mercury warehouse in the Buitrones enclosure. The building was constructed in 1941 with an entry arch, with two medallions and a pediment over a cornice. This building was not only deteriorated but also contaminated, so massive works were necessary to make the use as a museum possible.

Visitors can also visit the San Rafael Mining Hospital from 1755 which was in service as a Miners Hospital from 1774 until 1975. It contains remains of the hospitals, an exhibition on the metallurgy of mercury, and an exhibition on the life and customs of the miners. It also houses the historical archive of the Almadén Mines, with more than 100,000 records. The tour is self guided and takes about 2 hours.