Mining Historical Heritage

Photo by Can Sarica.

Mining Historical Heritage is part of the Tentative list of Spain in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Mining Historical Heritage is a serial proposal consisting of 21 locations in nine provinces and regions spread over the entire country. The majority of the mining sites are coal and iron ore mines, but metals such as copper, silver, lead, gold and mercury were also mined. Among the selected sites are also stone quarries and salt works. In the oldest of these sites, mining activity dates back to the Neolithic period.

Map of Mining Historical Heritage

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Persian Globetrotter

Spain - Iran - 25-Nov-23 -

Mining Historical Heritage (T) by PersianGlobetrotter

I will focus on the coal mines of Asturias and the north of León, I have close family who have worked their entire lives in those mines and I know the place well.

In principle I consider that they should be separated from the rest of the mining deposits in other areas of Spain that have nothing to do with the coal mines on the northern slope. I consider that they have a special relevance although they have certain similarities with the mines of the Ruhr and the UK, they are mines that are more than a hundred years old, they were the main economic engine of Francoist Spain and at the same time points of rebellion and resistance against the regime and the Franco's fascist oppression, added to the harsh working conditions that took the lives of many miners.

In 2014, the European Union made the brilliant decision to force Spain to close its mines in order to buy cheaper coal from China.

I consider that the coal mines of Asturias and León constitute an industrial heritage of historical value, not only for Spain and Europe but also for all of humanity.


Spain - 31-Oct-23 -

Ok, first things first, this nomination is a disaster, it tries to get 21 mines spread throughout the country (and history) into just one site. It's almost as bad as wine in iberia in that regard. However it does point towards some good posible sites. Spain already has two sites associated with mining, which might seem like a lot, but still leaves some gaps. Namely, anything not related with mercury or roman gold extraction. Spain has been a notorious mining region since antiquity and to this day. Thus it has a diverse and large mining heritage. This is made clear when you go through the list as it includes anything from neolithic mines to 19th century ones. Further inspection shows that one mine is already inscribed (Almaden) and another two are part of other nominations, salinas de imán in sigüenza and atienza, and Salinas de aaiana in valle salado de Añana. So how to understand all of this? Here's my take. Not including the mines in other nominations there's basically 5 general regions presented which may have OUV. The iberian pyrite belt in andalusia, the lead-silver deposits in sierra morena, the cartagena mining deposits, the neolithic mines in Barcelona, the coal deposits in Asturias and the iron deposits in the basque country. Out of these I haven't been to cartagena, sierra morena, nor the neolithic mines so I won't talk about thiem.

The iberian pyrite belt

This is the muscle of the nomination. All the mines in the pyrite belt (which continues into portugal and includes tharsis and rio tinto from the nomination) share more or less the same history: Early extraction by locals, then roman extraction up to what their technology allows them, then abandonment, and finally industrial foreign (french and british) extraction in the 19th century. I'm going to talk about Rio tinto because It's the one i've been too.

It has been a very long time since I went there, so I'll stick to the basics. Rio tinto was exploited during the roman period and there are significant artifacts (like a roman wood noria). However, nowadays the mine mostly reflects the operations in the 19th century by english miners. they made out of this ancient mine what at the time was the largest open pit mine in the world. it is very visually impressive and it still has a significant amount of industrial heritage. Close to the mines there are some british neighbourhoods built for the staff which you can still visit and add a cultural layer to the proposal. Other than that the most particular quirk about the mine is the river. Rio tinto means "red river" and as the name suggests it is a vivid red. The leaching from all the exposed metallic deposits is what gives it this surprising colour. Unsurprisingly few living things can thrive here, though a number of extremophiles have been found lurking in the highly acidic (ph 2) waters. It is a really striking example of mining contamination and it has been widely used for scientific research about the extremophiles. Imo Rio Tinto has OUV (which is why I give this nomination a thumbs up)

It's worth noting that part of Rio tinto is nowadays a touristic mining park. However, this doesn't include the whole complex. The deposits are still there and the mining continues. if demand increases we might see pushes for renewed extraction inside the property.


I have been in coal mines in asturias, though I can't say if I've been to any in the nomination file (sorry). Similarly, anyone who has traveled by car in the region has seen the leftovers from the lucrative metallurgic industry of the 19th century. It somewhat resembles the Ruhr, but I very much doubt it can compete with the already established collection of coal mines in the WHL. So it's a preentive thumbs down from me.


Basque Country

I've only been to a small iron mill in the basque country which is not enough to judge the region. However, The basque country is synonymous with iron. Before the 19th century this was one of the poorest regions in Spain. Nowadays it's one of the richest. that change comes down to their iron deposits which, with the development of the steel industry, became highly coveted. The region industrialised fast by selling their iron ore to the UK. In 1899 they produced 6.5M metric tonnes, a bit more than france! The reason for their success was that their iron had no phosphorus and at the time that was a big advantage. I have no Idea if this has any OUV (Afterall, I haven't been to any of the relevant mines) but It doesn't look all that bad.


Overall, I would say this messy nomination hides a few interesting jewels. It lazily piles all the mining heritage in Spain but with a bit of luck It could give us one or even several industrial heritage sites. Something that would be welcomed in a region with few of this kind.

Caspar Dechmann

Switzerland - 06-Mar-22 -

Mining Historical Heritage (T) by Caspar Dechmann

I visited the neolithic Mines of Gavà from Barcelona. Gava train station is easy and frequently to reach by regional train from Barcelona. From there you can walk for 20 minutes or take a bus. 

There you find a huge modern building which houses the archeological parc mit a museum and some of the mines entrances. The mines seem to excel in several aspects: They are the oldest (known) gallery mines in Europe (around 6000 years), they are very extended over 200 hectares, and they are the only known mines for a green mineral called varascite that I had never heard of but that was used for body ornaments. The Romans later exploited it further for iron ore. They found several burials in the mine and a few ritual objects such as the Venus of Gavà. While I find this statue interesting and would like to put it quickly in historic perspective: The Swabian Ice age art is around 40'000 years old and more complex and realistic. 

The archeologial Parc is basically one big hall where you can see several entrances to mines and there are exhibits about archeological finds and about human development: How humans made tools, developed religious views, started agriculture etc.  I found them quite beautifully done but they aimed largely at children or beginners in this field  and talked more about the general development of mankind than about the local particularities. At the end you can go into a rebuilt mine to get an impression how it felt to work there. While they had rather low ceilings I still figure they were much more comfortably high then the original mines. Also this part was well done but rather simple. 

Has this OUV? If they really are the oldest gallery mines in Europe I can see a certain OUV similar to the already inscribed flint mines. But if they are not clearly older then I don't see the necessity that we have a varascite mine on the list though I found the visit in Spiennes not more impressive. About the complete nomination of the "Mining heritage" of Spain I have a very clear opinion: I think it is a disaster since it combines mining sites from 6000 years and in all possible fields of mining with the only common factor that they lie all in Spain. That leaves the strong impression that non of the single elements possesses OUV. As far as I browsed the different (21!) elements of the nomination the ones that stuck out for me (if any) were Gavá for its age and size and Rio Tinto (which I have not visited yet) for is long mining history, the acidity and color of the river and the huge transformation of its landscape. If this nomination should make sense they have to figure out which elements really are unique.


Zoƫ Sheng

Chinese-Canadian - 20-Oct-18 -

Mining Historical Heritage (T) by Zoe Sheng

From the heaps of places that are trying to inscribe I visited La Union near Murcia. The first sights I saw were the typical rundown, forgotten and left behind buildings of a mining landscape. I knew I was at the right place. The first stop was at El Rojo, a lake now so red from the acid resulting from the mining. This isn't a tourist spot and the lookout even had a big no parking notice plus the typical danger sign, but it was only a few meters to get a good view. This all wasn't so much to see so there was surely something they are trying to inscribe?

It's a landscape so you get a lot of buildings. Go into the town proper and you can find the old market, a pretty building, and a few casas & villas from former head honchos in the mining industry. I wasn't all impressed but it didn't take much of my time.

I can't speak for all the heritage sites but this seems more of a national importance rather than a worldly one.

Full Name
Mining Historical Heritage
Structure - Mines
2007 Revision

Includes former TWHS Rodalquilar (1995), Las Herrerias (Almeria) (1995), Las canteras de s'Hostal (Ciutadella) (1998) and Paisaje Minero de la Sierra de Cartagena

2007 Added to Tentative List

The site has 21 locations

Mining Historical Heritage: Mining basins on the Tinto River (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Mining basins on the Tharsis River (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: "The ""Reunion"" Historical mining complex at Villanueva del Rio y Minas " (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Linares-La Carolina Mining District (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Alto Guadiato Mining District (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Sierra Almagrera Mining District (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Rodalquilar Mines (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Mares de S'Hostal Quarries (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Ojos Negros Mines (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Valle del Nalon (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Valle del Caudal (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Almaden-Puertollano Mines (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Salinas de lman (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Valle del Sabero Mining Basin (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Villablino (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Neolithic Mines of Can Tintorer en Gava (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Bellmunt del Priorat Mines (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Cartagena (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: La Union Mining Basins (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Aiiana salt mines (T)
Mining Historical Heritage: Las Encartaciones iron ore mines (T)
WHS 1997-2024