Rio Tinto mining Park
The Rio Tinto area of Huelva boasts 3,000 years of mining history, from the Phoenicians then Romans, right up to to the 1990s. Today, as part of the Rio Tinto Mining Park you can visit the museum in the old hospital, the Peña de Hierro mine, and a Victorian-era British house; and take a 22km train ride.
The variety of the Rio Tinto Mining Park makes for a fascinating and original day out (be sure to arrive early, allowing time to visit all the various sites) - and all the more so if you're British and want to see how your forebears lived and worked in Spain in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Additionally, if you have an interest in history, geology, chemistry, metallurgy and/or engineering, then you’ll find it highly rewarding. But even if you don't fall into any of these categories, Rio Tinto Mining Park still offers an enjoyable and educational experience for all ages.
WHAT AND WHERE IS IT?
Rio Tinto is a town named after the river which flows close to it, which is coloured red (tinto, as in vino tinto) due to all the mineral ores, such as iron and copper, in its waters. It is located 65km north-west of Seville, in the 230km-Iberian Pyrite Belt, which extends as far as the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Close to the town itself are a numbr of large open cast mines spread over a wide area - Corte Atalaya is perhaps the most impressive as it is the largest open-pit mine in Europe. Elliptical in shape, 1,200 metres long, and 350 metres deep, it was begun in 1907 and closed in 1992. Since 1994 it has been flooded up to the 16th ring. Cerro Colorado is another mine of note. Peña del Hierro can be visited, Cortalago is an old Roman mine.
The "Parque Minero Riotinto" was set up in 1992, so that visitors can learn about the important history of these mines.
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The Phoenicians mined in Rio Tinto, combining copper with tin from Cornwall to make bronze. The Romans preferred silver, extracting from the 2nd century BC onwards. To combat flooding, a major risk in deep mining, then used norias (water-wheels) operated in pairs by slaves, raising water from 100m below ground. The Visigothic carried on the mines. Later, after the Reconquest, cheap New World minerals left the mines standing until 1873.
The Spanish government sold them to a British consortium, which formed the Rio Tinto Company Ltd, whose principal product was copper. Many British engineers came to live and work in the town, creating a mini-colony, a microcosm of England. The first golf course and football pitch in Spain were both built here. They also constructed a railway to transport the ores to the coast.
In 1954, the company was nationalised, and the "Projecto Rio Tinto" is currently owned by EMED Mining Tartessus, who want to extract copper again, but the mine has been inactive since 2001, and the company is in negotiation with the government. More about the history of the Rio Tinto Mines
WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO SEE?
The "Parque Minero Riotinto" (Rio Tinto Mining Park) offers enough activities for a whole day out. You can visit:
Mining and railways museum,
with its detailed history of mining in Rio Tinto, Roman mine reconstruction, Maharajah's reailway carriage and steam engine.
Peña del Hierro open-cast mine, where you enter an actual mining gallery.
Bella Vista, the English barrio, complete with social club, Presbyterian church, and village green. Casa 21 is a restored victorian engineers house.
Train trip in an original wooden carriage along the banks for the red Rio Tinto, to see the old mines and machinery, as well as the extraordinary landscapes.
OPENING AND VISITING TIMES
Museum Open daily from 10.30am to 3pm, and from 4pm to 7pm.
Peña de Hierro Mine: A guided tour leaves the museum at 12.00 daily
Bella Vista English house from 4pm to 7pm
Every day of the year except 25 December, 1 and 6 January.
Train departs Sat, Sun and Bank Holidays at 1.30pm plus exta departures in summer.
If you want to see everything in one day - here is how to do it:
Arrrive early: you can visit the museum from 10.30am to 12.00 midday. Then at 12.00 join the convoy of cars with a guide leading to see the mine until 1pm. The convoy returns to the train station in time for the 1.30pm (Sat and Sun) departure; the train returns at 3pm. This gives you time for lunch before visiting the Bella Vista English house and neighbourhood.
If you can't arrive early:
Visit the Museum up to 1pm, take the train at 1.30pm and visit the Bella Visita neighbourhood in the afternoon.
Museum and house – 4 euros for adults, 3 euros for children;
Mine – 7 euros for adults, 6 euros for children;
Train – 10 euros for adults, 9 euros for children.
Ticket for all three: 16 euros for adults, 14 euros for children.
Tel: 959 590 025
Full details in Spanish on Parque Minero website www.parquemineroderiotinto.es/