Rodalquilar -Gold Mines
Dominating the village on a nearby hill are the ruins of the 'Denver' process plant of the gold mines in hills around Rodalquilar. The installations were abandoned in the 1960's. All the ironwork was removed for scrap, however the concrete structure of the processing plant remains. dominate are the five washing tanks, the electromagnetic separator tower (right hand side) and the Symon Mill left hand side). If you don't fancy the long 'staircase to hell' from the lower car park by Casa del Volcanes at the end of Calle Bocamina, you can drive right to the top of the installations where the raw mineral ore was deposited.
Take care exploring, the installations are not fence, they are in ruins, and warning signs alert you to the risk of falling. The installations have been the set for a number of films (see below) , and photographed for a number of exhibitions, and featured on a few haunting videos can be found on YouTube. What is unusual about the ruins is that they are not fenced off and dirt track rural public road runs through them for making easy access. You can drive right to the top of the installations where the raw mineral ore was deposited.
On the electricity tower on the right bear the big black painted letters "GUARD BLOCK D" and on the titration tower "DORM BLOCK A" This is nothing to do with the mining but the shooting the 1984 cult (for being so bad) film "Solarbabies" a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller whose cast included Alexei Sayle.
If you continue driving past the Denver plant and over the hill to come across the ruined Mining village of San Diego and other mine workings. Keep going to a junction, turn right and you will reach Cortijo del Fraile or turn left passing ruins of Cortijada del Madroñal (near mine Maria Josefa) for the village of Albaricoques.
Rodalquilar Gold Mining History
The has been mining in the area since prehistoric times, there is evidence of Roman mines. The main substance mined is Alum but also lead, silver and zinc. In order to protect this resource Bateria de San Roman was constructed on El Playzo beach. Nearby Torre de los Alumbres served the same purpose.
This local area has mineral rich rock from a one cubic kilometre breakthrough of igneous rock forming the mountains and causing the calderas (cauldron-like depressions).
Mining was restarted in in 1864 and gold fever struck in 1880. Many small mines opened up with small groups of miners chasing seams of gold with hand tools. This gold is not found in nuggets but is encrusted into the mineral laden rock called ore. The gold was situated in quartz with veins of other metals such as lead and silver. After crushing the ore to a powder, a chemical process called 'amalgamation' using mercury was required to extract the gold.
The silica rock was hard and miners used hammers and hand drills. Miners carried the ore to the surface on esparto (woven grass) containers on their backs. Carts pulled by animals took the ore 4km to a loading bay on El Playazo beach and from there to St Eliza Foundry in Mazarron and to a foundry in Cartagena. The foundries extract the lead/gold mixture which was sent to Antwerp for separation.
In May 1915 gold was found in the "Maria Josefa" mine and by y 1916 a central gold extraction plant from the ore was established at Cortijo El Estanquillo, where the village now stands. It was supplied with ore from mines called "Las Niñas", "Ronda", "Consulta". About 2.500 tonnes of ore was mined in 1916 producing about 50kg of gold.
In 1925 the 'Rodalquilar Gold Mines Company' and the 'Exploitation of Rodalquilar Gold Mines Company' made another serious attempt. They set up an almalgamation plant treating 20 tonne of ore a day. They were unsuccessful and closed it down after a year.
In 1929 "Minas Auriferas de Rodalquilar" built a plant by German firm Krupp Grusonwerk, the site of the "California" mine next to the present village. This also processed 20 tonne of ore a day. It closed in 1930.
Minas de Rodalquilar SA
The Anglo Spanish company 'Minas de Rodalquilar' started in 1929. This company had capital to use explosives and compressed air drills. Rails were laid on the main mine shafts and hand pushed wagons of one cubic meter transported the ore to the surface. Another innovation was to use massive wheeled diesel engine lorries to take the ore from the mine to the plant. This company used the new cyanide extraction process at a plant known as Dorr Mill. After 1930 the company was supplied with electricity by English capital company "Fuerzas Motrices del Valle Lecrin" via a 25kv line.
The company was actually quite successful and became world renown. They had extracted two tonnes of gold when, in 1936, the mines were seized at the beginning of the Spanish Civil an run by the UGT and CNT trade unions. Without resources the production was nil.
Post Civil War
After the civil war the mines were nationalized and run by ADARO company as part of INI. Technology had improved and water was added to the compressed air drills which significantly reduced silicosis in the miners.
Open cast mining began, with ever greater quantities of explosives, with 5000 tonnes of ore extracted in each blast.
In May 1956 a new smelting plant called 'Denver' was opened by General Franco it was the largest Gold Mine of its type in western Europe. By the end of the fifties 1000 people worked in the plant and 1400 lived in the village. Production outstripped the quantity of ore available. The mines closed in 1966 and the machinery sent elsewhere or sold.
Rodalquilarito is the name of a emerald green brittle mineral found with crusts of stout crystals. It was first discovered in this area in 1967 and named after the village. It has also been reported in Coquimbo, Chile, and Tombstone, Arizona.
A final company tried again at Rodalquilar in 1989. At a site called St Joe it began opencast blasting. Lorries carried material from the quarries to an installation next to Cortijo del Fraile. It closed after a year.