Mina subterrânea de Sal-Gema de Loulé

Rocksalt Mine Tour - Mina Campina de Cima


Useful Information

Location: Meeting point for the tour is Parque das Minas Sal-Gema de Loulé, Rua dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra. It is located at the eastern end of the road. (37° 8' 5.25" N, 8° 0' 27.80" W)
Open: All year daily 9:30, 11, 14, 16.
[2020]
Fee: Adults EUR 25, Children (8-12) 15, Children (0-7) not allowed, Loulé Residents EUR 15.
Groups (10+): Adults EUR 20, pre-booking mandatory.
[2020]
Classification: MineSalt Mine
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=45,000m, T=23°C.
Guided tours: L=1,300m, D=2h. Português - Portuguese Français - French English
Photography: allowed, but respect the personal rights of guides and other visitors
Accessibility: currently not wheelchair accessible, guide dogs not allowed
Bibliography:
Address: Mina de Sal-Gema de Loulé, Rua dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra 80, 8100-545 Loulé, Tel: +35-91-4534-750. E-mail: E-mail: 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

1950s rock salt discovered during search for ground water.
1963 CLONA - Mineira de Sais Alcalinos SARL founded.
1964 Campina de Cima mine started with two shaft.
1970s acquired by the Grupo José de Mello.
1983 acquisition of the first continuous mining brushcutter.
1987 acquisition of the second continuous mining brushcutter, use of explosives abandoned.
1989 largest annual production of over 124,000 tons of rock salt.
1993 extraction tower for shaft 2 replaced.
1995 acquisition of the third continuous mining brushcutter, worhk in shifts is more efficient.
2000 automatic salt loading station for the elevators developed and built at the mine.
2005 Mine merged into Química de Portugal SA owned by the CUF Group.
2007 production changed from chemical industry to animal feed and road safety in winter products.
AUG-2019 TechSalt S.A. takes over the exploration of the mine and opens the mine to the public.

Description

The Mina subterrânea de Sal-Gema de Loulé (underground rock salt mine Loulé) is located below the town Loulé, where 230m below the surface 230 Ma old rock salt is mined. Visitor descend to this level by a mine elevator with a capacity of seven people, which takes three minutes. Then they follow a walking trail through the abandoned parts of the working mine. The tour emphasizes on the geology, the cultural and financial importance of rock salt, and the mining technology. Comfortable clothes and walking shoes are recommended, the temperature is 23°C, so there is no need for warm clothes. The chambers are vast, nevertheless people with claustrophobia are discouraged from visiting the mine. The vistors are equipped with a helmet with headlamp and a security vest.

The mine is actually named Mina Campina de Cima, and it is rather young. The salt was discovered when some farms at the eastern end of Loulé tried to find groundwater for raising cattle in the 1950s. Ground water was not discovered, but the salt deposit. After further exploration the mine was finally started in January 1964 with the construction of two shafts. This was done by miners from MineMina de São Domingos. This mine was already on the verge of being closed, and so the miners were happy to find a new job. The two shafts were dug to a depth of 230m into the rock salt, then they were connected by a horizontal passage, which allowed air flow and thus the ventilation of the mine. Now the mining of the salt in a traditional room and pillar way started.

The development of the mine boosted in the 1970s, when it was acquired by the Grupo José de Mello (José de Mello Group). They needed salt for the chemical industry, namely the companies Barreiro, Quimigal S.A., Estarreja, and Uniteca S.A.. As a result the mining activity increased.

Today, after more than 50 years of operation the mine has a total length of 45 kilometers, it is the largest underground space in Portugal. And the only one below sea level. The mine has always been an innovator, it was the first to adopt a new technology for their elevators, and the first who replaced electric trains with diesel machines. The big benefit is that they need no expensive installations like rails and electric wires, but the drawback is the poisonous exhaust of the diesel engines. This works only because of the two shafts which provide air circulation and thus a very good air quality. They were also early adaptors of the explosive ANFO (ammonium nitrate + fuel oil) which is manufactured in the mine. This system is very cost effective. Nevertheless it was completely abandoned only a decade later when the acquisition of two continuous mining brushcutters made the use off explosives unnecessary. Today the salt is mined with three brushcutters in shifts.

In 2007 the salt production changed, we are not sure if the reason was less demand from the chemical industry or simply the new owner of the mine. However, they now produced mainly salt for animals and for the roads in winter.

Opening the mine for tourists is aa new development. The mine was sold several times and finally it was taken over by the newly founded TechSalt SA. They gave the concession to offer the tours to the established, family owned tourist company Picturesque Journey.