Atalaya Tours programme of mining study tours has been running since 1988, and covers all aspects of mining history and archaeology, both ancient and recent, and the geological setting of the mining areas.
The tour areas are chosen for their importance in the international history of mining, and for the amount of visible remains. Most sites are also set in remarkable landscapes and countryside, in areas that can be described as off the beaten tourist track. We also make the most of the opportunity to visit other cities, towns, and sites of interest with free time in the tour areas.
Rio Tinto and the Iberian Pyrite Belt
Dates: 12th to 19th April 1997
Duration 7 nights/8 days
Price: £610 including UK departure tax and VAT
Min 6/Max. 8 participants
The Iberian Pyrite Belt stretches for 250km from Seville in southern Spain to the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Despite its title, most of the 70 or so mines of the area were copper producers before the value of their pyritic ores became known. The area was dominated by the mines of Rio Tinto at the centre of the area which under British management from the 1870s to the 1950s became the first true major international mining concern.
The area, however, has an even longer history with mining remains dating back to the earliest phases of metal working in Europe. Under Roman rule the area was one of the richest natural resources of the classical world and the remains of large-scale exploitation of that period can still be seen at many sites.
Overall much remains to be visited in the area. There are extensive mining landscapes to be seen around Rio Tinto itself where the mine covered an area of 50 square km. There are also a number of smaller sites where both ancient and more recent mining can be seen.
Day 1 Flight UK to Faro, Portugal and transfer to Rio Tinto
Day 2 Tour of the Rio Tinto mines and museum areas
Day 3 Mines in the central Pyrite Belt
Day 4 Tharsis and the western mining area
Day 5 Sevilla and mines in Seville province
Day 6 Rio Tinto valley and the port of Huelva
Day 7 Mines in the northern Pyrite Belt
Day 8 Mines in the Portuguese section and return to UK
Mines of Andalucia and Southern Spain
Dates: 19th to 29th April 1997
Duration: 10 nights/11 days
Price: £895 include. departure tax and VAT
Min 6/Max. 8
This tour covers the main mining areas of southern Spain outside the Pyrite Belt and can be combined with the Rio Tinto itinerary at a special price to make a tour of the entire region. The area has a wealth of mining remains dating from the prehistoric period to recent times, set in the magnificent landscape of eastern Andalucia and neighbouring Murcia.
These southern provinces of Spain have been one of the most important mining areas since prehistory. The mineral wealth of the area, principally gold and silver, attracted the attention of the great powers of the Mediterranean, from Phoenician traders to Carthaginian and Roman conquerors. In the 19th century the area again became the focus of intense mining activity. The deposits were so rich that at several times during the last century their exploitation moved the international markets.
There are some spectacular sites to be seen dating from all periods of working. The tour itinerary includes the most important mining areas in the region: copper and lead in the Sierra Morena; the silver-lead mines of the Linares/La Carolina area; silver, lead and iron mines in the coastal sierras of Almeria; the lead and zinc mines of the Cartagena-La Unión region.
The tour itinerary takes us through some of the most dramatic scenery of southern Spain, including the mountains of the Sierra Morena, the Betic mountains of Jaen and the Sierra Nevada of Granada, and the coastal sierras of Murcia and Almería. With hotel bases on the Mediterranean coast, in the cities of Granada and Cordoba, and in the historic town of Baeza, this tour should provide a memorable view of the region through its mining history. We will also have free time to explore both Granada and Cordoba in more depth.
1 Flight UK to Malaga. Transfer to Cordoba.
2 Mines in Sierra de Cordoba
3 Travel to Linares via Sierra Morena.
4/5 Mines in the Linares-La Carolina area.
6 Travel to Granada
7 Free day in Granada
8 Travel to Murcia via Almeria mines
9/10 Cartagena/La Union area
11 Travel to Alicante airport. Return flight to UK.
Mines of Northern Spain
Dates: 21st June to 1st July 1997
Duration: 10 nights/11 days
Price: £895 include. departure tax and VAT
Min 6/Max. 8
The green northern coast of Spain and the regions of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria are in sharp contrast to the dry land of the south. Rugged mountain ranges including the Picos de Europa run parallel to the coast. Our tour includes the major Roman gold mining sites in the provinces of Oviedo and Leon, tin in northern Portugal & Galicia, copper and lead mines around the Picos and Cantabrian Mountains, and the coal and iron mines of Asturias.
The Roman gold mines of the region are deservedly well-known as major sites of ancient mining technology. The site of Las Médulas presents a spectacular demonstration of the scale of their workings for gold using hydraulic mining in alluvial deposits. A number of mines on vein gold deposits show how the Romans adapted their techniques to hard rock mining.
The mountains of Leon and Cantabria also contain a number of copper, lead, and zinc mines which were exploited in prehistory, and were re-opened in more recent times. In Galicia and northern Portugal there are a number of tin mines of great antiquity, a few of which have survived to the present day. The northern provinces became the foremost industrial area of Spain in the 19th century, and, as well as the iron and steel industry, the area became an important producer of lead and zinc with both metals being smelted on a large scale.
Preservation at mine sites, and general industrial archaeology, is very good. Remains from all periods can be seen. Apart from the mining sites themselves, the geography of the mountainous terrain provided a challenge to mining companies in transporting their ores to their markets, and the area contains a wealth of mining ropeways, tramways, railways and ore ports.
1 Flights UK to northern Spain.
2 Pola Allende, Roman mines at Puerto del Palo
3 Ponferrada. Roman mines at Las Medulas
4 Copper mines in Leon
5 Galician tin areas
6 Mines in northern Portugal
7 Transfer to Cantabria
8 Picos de Europa and the Buferrera mines
9 Cantabrian zinc mining around Udias and Torrrelavega
10 Oviedo and the Aviles area
11 Return flight to UK
Mines of Western Britain
Dates: 30th August to 9th September 1997
Duration: 10 nights/11 days
Price: £1100.00 incl. VAT
Min 6/Max. 15
Wales and the south-west of England are very distinctive areas of the British Isles which share a common Celtic heritage. These two areas are also renowned as among the most important mining areas of Britain, and have contributed much to the history of the industry.
The tour itinerary covers the major mining sites in western Britain. Many of the sites are of great antiquity, and large scale remains of prehistoric and Roman working have been revealed at a number of mines. The legacy of the Industrial Revolution from the early 1700s to the beginning of the present century is represented by many well-preserved sites, a number of which are protected as national monuments.
These areas of the British Isles are also known for their natural beauty and historic associations. The coastal scenery of the coast of Cornwall is a dramatic backdrop to some of the areas tin and copper mines. Wales is known for the beauty of its mountain scenery, and the gold, copper and silver-lead mines of the ancient Principality are set in the most spectacular of mountain settings. During our excursions and free time there will be the chance to view much of the region's coastal and mountain scenery and historic sites.
1 Meeting in central London hotel
2 Mines in Devon
3 Cornish tin and copper mines
4 Cornish china clay mining
5 Travel to south Wales
6 South Wales mining field
7 Roman gold mines and mid-Wales metal mines
8 Mid-Wales mining and southern Snowdonian copper and gold
9 Gold in Snowdonia and prehistoric copper mining.
10 Slate mining and return to London hotel.
11 Depart London
An extension tour itinerary to southern Eire can be arranged depending on the numbers interested. The tour would leave north Wales on day 10 and return to London on day 13.
Dates: 16th September to 1st October1997
Duration: 16 nights
Price: £1450.00 (approx.) incl. departure tax and VAT
Min 15/Max. 20
It was the desire for precious metals that gave the spur to the rapid Spanish conquest and exploration of "New Spain of the Ocean Sea". Three years after the final conquest of Mexico City in 1521 the first mines opened at Taxco, where in 1534 Cortes himself opened the first adit mine in the New World. Throughout the 16th century the riches of New Spain flooded to the Spanish treasury from the newly discovered mines at Zacatecas, Guanjuato, Pachuca, Sombrete, and Fresnillo. The discovery of the "patio process" at Pachuca in 1554 meant that these mines were able to recover silver in large quantities from relatively poor ores.
Even after the economic decline of the Spanish empire Mexican silver mining continued to grow with discoveries at San Luis del Potosí, Real del Monte, Catorce and elsewhere. After the struggle for independence in the 1820s the Mexican mines, needing new capital to develop further, attracted the attention of foreign investors. The description of Alexander von Humboldt of the mines was read by, among others, the British mining engineer John Taylor who entered the Mexican mining scene at Real del Monte where he established a British run company and imported Cornish mining and pumping methods to work the mines.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries mining has underpinned the Mexican economy, in later years often under the ownership of north American companies. Even in the 1920s Mexico was still a leading international silver and copper producer, and was accounting for 24% of world silver production in the 1950s. The growth of the oil industry eclipsed metal production in the national economy, but many mines are still at work.
The Mexican mining belt follows a rift zone that runs for about 1000km north-westwards from near Mexico City to the state of Sonora. Although most of the major mines, both historical and modern, are silver mines, a number of deposits have been worked for copper and other base metals and there is a growing gold industry. Many of the mines have a long history and so it is possible to see both historical remains and modern mining methods on many of the sites.
Many of the features of the historical sites are well-preserved with interesting mine building architecture, including the remains of Cornish engine houses, and spectacular mining landscapes. Also of interest are the towns that grew up around the silver mines, many of which are renowned for their period civic architecture.
The tour itinerary includes the major mining areas in the area of central & northern Mexico: Pachuca-Real del Monte, Guanjuato, San Luis del Potosí, Catorce, Zacatecas, Fresnillo, Sombrete etc.. The tour will include visits to working mines where possible.
As well as the mine sites, it is expected that clients will want to take this opportunity to see more of Mexico, and these regions, away from the centres of mass tourism, are among some of the best areas in which to experience Mexican culture. In addition, depending on the exact travel arrangements, it is intended to include some time in Mexico City and at a Pacific resort at the start and finish of the tour.
The tour is planned as a 16-night tour, and is scheduled to start in the last two weeks in September 1997. The details of the flight and transport arrangements will be handled by an experienced Mexico tour operator who is advising us on the itinerary. The price, to include flights from the UK, internal flights, transport and accommodation, is expected to be around £1,450 per person.
The Rajasthan mining area in north-west India includes lead, zinc and copper deposits. The most famous of the mines are those at Rajpura-Darriba and Zawar near the city of Udaipur in thestate of Rajasthan. The mines form one of the most modern mining and smelting complexes in India; however, they are also famous for the remains of ancient metal mining dating to 2000BC, and the very early, mediaeval production of zinc metal in retort furnaces.
The Kolar goldfields are located between the southern cities of Bangalore and Madras in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The mines were first worked on a scale in the 19th century, and continue working today with some of the deepest shaft mines outside of South Africa.
This tour was originally planned for January 1997, however, it has proved impossible to arrange a date convenient for the Rajasthan mining companies. THe tour has therefore been postponed to 1998. The best dates for visiting the Rajasthan area would be in January and February. It is intended, therefore, to try to make arrangements with the mining companies with a view to running the tour in 1998, if this is possible.
The general tour itinerary would be as follows: flights from UK to Delhi. Free time in Delhi area. Transfer to southern Rajasthan and tour of the Rajasthan mining region. Internal flights to Bangalore and tour of the Kolar gold fields. Free time in Madras area. Return flight to UK.
The tour will be organised in collaboration with a specialist Indian travel company which will provide flights and coach hire and the services of local agents and guides. The planned two-week 1997 itinerary, including flights from the UK, transport, accommodation, internal flights, etc. was costed at about £1500 per person. A minimum of 15 people would have been be required.
Further details of the programme of tours are available from tour manager James Thorburn:
Atalaya Tours Ltd Ceinionfa Capel Dewi ABERYSTWYTH SY23 3HR UKPhone/Fax (24hr answerphone)
+44 (0) 1970 82-89-89
of the Mining History Network