Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sierra Minera

Photos of the Sierra Minera
Cabeza Rajao

One of the oldest mined areas is Cabeza Rajao on the N332, opposite the FEVE station of La Esperanza. The name of this hill means "split head".
There is an extinct volcanic crater at its centre,

a chimney,

a number of ruinous mining buildings -

Mina Iberia

amongst these is Mina San Isidoro -

abandoned machinery like the wheel of Mina Iberia over Pozo San Francisco de Paula

and interesting views of the surrounding hills.


Alumbres lies across the N332 and a short way towards Cartagena. It now suffers pollution and health problems thanks to the heavy industry in the Valley that leads down to the port of Escombreras. The village still has its good points and there are many interesting ruins in the countryside beside the road that leads down to the container port.

Mina Manolita

Below are pictures from the La Parreta group of buildings

Lavadero San Ignacio

El Descargador

The Cuevas del Roma in the El Descargador area on the outskirts of La Union lie in the hills behind the Sierra Minera station. They are small cave houses cut into the rock. They have been there from early times and almost all are uninhabited now. Most only run to a couple of rooms. They are not like the cave houses you see for sale in other parts. These are very basic with mud floors and only the odd vestige of plaster left on the walls. There are lots of prickly pear plants and fruit trees nearby which may be the remains of gardens.

Further down the road there´s the Fundición Pio Wandossell. It looks like a sprawling ruined finca. It once contained a huge mining machine but this was robbed last year.

On the other side of Paraje el Descargador there´s a huge slag heap reminiscent of a Mexican pyramid nestling below the highest part of the Sierra Minera, Sancti Spiritu.

You can find the remains of the San Jorge mine close by.

A private road leads to various quarries which are still in use - Corta Emilia, San Valentin, etc. A mining wheel marks the corner of this road before the boatbuilding firm, Astilleros Sinergia. I believe the road and quarries are still owned by Portman Golf. Permission is needed to visit them legally and it´s not exactly easy to get...


Two of the oldest and most famous quarries are San Valentin and Corta Emilia. Entry is forbidden unless you have the right friends.

Corta Emilia:

San Valentin

The second time we went to this quarry we found a very large headless bird, probably an eagle, in the area below the wind generators.

Between El Descargador and Llano del Beal there are a huge number of mines and caves in the hills. There were so many claims in the nineteenth century - I have seen it estimated at 1100 or so - that it is hard to decide where one mine ends and another begins. The records of many seem to have been lost. One that is known is Maria Dolores, sometimes called Los Pajaritos. There´s a group of buildings by it. The entrance is a long straight passage that goes into the hill for a very long way.I have seen it estimated at half a kilometre. There are shorter side passages also. One contains a beautiful aragonite formation, another has a water deposit.

The mine is the only one I know that is incredibly cold. We go there in August, put jackets on to keep warm and eat a tub of ice cream inside.

El Estrecho de San Ginés

At the foot of Monte Miral near El Estrecho de San Gines the mineralisation is entirely different. One of the easiest mines to access is Mina Precaucíon, a favourite with collectors as it yields fine specimens of hemimorphite.The mine used to look extremely safe with a lower part with wide stairs leading to a lower area. In the last year the hemimorphite has absorbed so much water from the hill that everything is cracking up and the lower part can no longer be visited safely.

A little further on the there´s the entrance to Cueva Victoria. This is mostly closed to the public as it is constantly being excavated and has shown evidence of prehistoric inhabitation and bones of animals normally associated with the African continent. It is also huge - 2 kilometres perhaps - and there would be a danger of getting lost. It is opened only very occasionally, sometimes only once in a few years. We took a tour round on one of these occasions and it was fascinating. Here´s a detail of some stalactites.


Portman has some impressive remains including Tunel Jose Maestre. This tunnel connected with Corta Emilia and dates from 1957. It was later connected to other quarries. I have seen 2 different estimates of its length - one of 2 kilometres and another of 3 and a half. It is now flooded to quite a depth. The entrance is almost entirely blocked with huge reeds.

Trains ran through the tunnel in its heyday. There are still many abandoned trucks on the rails outside.

The first Jose Maestre was the doctor in Portmán and married into the Zapata family who owned many mines in the area. in the town below the hill where the tunnel lies you can see the attractive Hospital de la Caridad building. It was originally a hospital for sick or injured miners. It is now an archaeological museum.
Miguel Zapata was also known as Tio Lobo. His house was an architectural gem designed by Victor Beltri. It is now ruinous as is its garden.