Mina de São Domingos

Sao Domingos Mines


Useful Information

Location: At São Domingos. From Lisbon follow A2 (E1) south, exit 12 Castro Verde, east on IP2 to Castro Verde. Exit N2/N123 Aljustrel/Mértola, follow N123 31km, turn right on IC27 11km to Mértola. Across the bridge, follow N265 17km to Mina de São Domingos.
Open: Wasteland: no restrictions.
Centro de Documentação and Casa do Mineiro: all year Mon-Fri 9-12:30, 14-17:30.
[2020]
Fee: Wasteland: free.
[2020]
Classification: MineCopper Mine
Light: n/a.
Dimension:
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: Mina de São Domingos, 7750-162 Achada do Gamo.
Centro de Documentação e Casa do Mineiro, Rua de Santa Isabel, nº 30, Mina de São Domingos, 7750-146 Corte do Pinto, Tel: +351-286-647-534. 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

4000 BP earliest copper mining in the area.
2000 BP copper mined by the Phoenicians.
12-397 Roman copper mining.
1854 copper ore rediscovered.
1858 mine reopened under British management.
1882 Barragem da Tapada Grande dam constructed, to provide water for the mine.
1966 mine exhausted and closed.
26-JUN-2006 Centro de Documentação and Casa do Mineiro inaugurated.

Geology

The sulfuric polymetallic ore at São Domingos contained mainly copper, for which it was originally mined. But it also contained tin, zinc, iron, gold, and silver. Actually the zinc content was 3% and the copper content only 1.25%.

Description

The Mina de São Domingos is an abandoned mine with numerous derelict buildings and pools of blood-red acidic waste water. Mining started here with the Phoenicians more than 2000 years ago, was continued by the Romans. The romans dug a 40m deep open cast mine and retrieved about 750,000 tons of ore, about 15,000 tons per year. But the abandoned mine you can visit today was started in the 19th century, when the copper ore was rediscovered and the mining was leased to the British Sabina Mining Company. An entire village was constructed, with homes for the miners, sports facilities, a theater, a church, an electricity station, and a telephone exchange.

At one point this mine was one of the largest mining operations in Europe. It employed thousands of Portuguese workers. The British management had their separate section of the village.

The ore was rich in sulphur and copper. While copper was more important until World War I, later the sulfur became more important, to produce sulfuric acid. However, because of the sulfur the mining was quite bad to the health of the miners because they were constantly exposed to the chemicals. And after the mine was closed the landscape and the water was extremely polluted. The remaining wastelands start at the village and continue south for 3.5km.

The mine is abandoned, but the town is still populated. There is a hotel in the renovated former managers' houses. An old miner's hut was converted into a small museum named Casa do Mineiro. It shows the daily live of a typical miner family on 16m² average. The Centro de Documentação of the Serrão Martins Foundation is located in the same building. It houses the archives of the mine which are available to researchers. There are wooden walkways along some of the abandoned open casts for the tourists. Parts of the waste heaps are used for off-road motorcycle races.