The Linares-La Carolina lead mining field: The publicising, and the
conservation of a significant mining landscape in Spain.
Dr. Robert W. Vernon, Mining Historian.
Northern Mine Research Society, Lancashire, United Kingdom,
& Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes, Linares, Jaén, Spain.
The Linares-La Carolina mining field, Andalucía, Spain has been worked since
the Bronze Age. Later, the Romans worked the mines to the water table. No
further significant progress was made until the 1840s when British mining
companies introduced steam power. By the 1910s, when the industry was
waning, the mining landscape had become dotted with chimneys, engine
houses and smelt works.
When the significance of the mining landscape was first recognised by
British mining historians in the late 1970s, the mine buildings were virtually
untouched. However, the expansion of the Spanish economy during the 1990s
had many detrimental effects there. Mine spoil tips were removed to expose the
original soil level, which was then planted with olive trees. In the process, mine
structures were destroyed, and sometimes were left isolated and out of original
About this time, the Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes was formed in Linares
as an organisation to train students in practical subjects, and this involved the
restoration of several important buildings, e.g. railway station. However, the
emphasis gradually turned to the mining landscape, and the systematic
cataloguing of mine structures commenced. There are, for example over 30
Cornish-type pumping engine houses, numerous winding engine houses, stone
head-frames, several significant smelt works, and infrastructure.
After the initial assessment, the Colectivo started to publicise the area
locally, with the development of mine trails, and explanatory signs and booklets.
A mining museum was developed in the town. Conservation work was done on
several sites, notably La Tortilla where there are prominent engine houses, and
a major smelt works, with buildings virtually intact. Recently the Mayors of the
mining towns agreed to combine efforts to promote their mining heritage.
The paper details the mining structures found in the area, and shows
how they are being promoted, to maintain public awareness, and ultimately to
acquire funding, for mine site conservation.
There are a variety of mining landscapes in Spain, particularly in Andalucía. The
Rio Tinto, and adjacent pyrite mines (Huelva and Seville) with their extensive
remains such as the railway systems, for example is afforded some protection.
Elsewhere (Almería), the older lead mining remains in the Sierra Gador are
protected by their isolation, whilst those, in the Sierra Almagrera are constantly
threatened by natural erosion.
One of the most extensive lead mining
landscapes surround the towns of Linares, and La Carolina (Jaén), but it is a
unique and varied landscape that is threatened by the gradual encroachment of
agriculture, that needs special consideration to ensure that it is protected.
Linares / La Carolina
The mining landscape and the history of mining at Linares have been well
documented and now the area's significance in world mining heritage is being
Together with La Carolina, the area became a major lead
producer in the 19th and 20th centuries and the quantity of mining remains that
still exist bear testament to this fact.
At Linares the mineral veins are found in granite, capped by a thin
veneer of Triassic sandstone that forms a low undulating landscape rising to a
height of about 550m. The majority of mine structures are constructed from the
sandstone, whilst the spoil tips are predominantly granite. In contrast, the rocks
at La Carolina are mainly schists and quartzites, and are the dominant building
material. The landscape is mountainous, with deep valleys.
Figure 1. Pozo Ancho Mine, Linares: The remains of two of the three surviving Cornish
type engine houses. The house in the foreground was used for pumping, whiles the
other housed a winding engine. (Author)
Prior to the 1840s most mines were worked until conditions became too
difficult due to the quantity of water. For example, in 1843 when the Pozo Ancho
mine workings had reached a depth of 50 fms [91m], it is recorded that, '192
men were employed, day and night by turns, in bringing water in sacks to the
30fms [55m] level, whence it was raised by a whim [to the surface], employing
24 mules constantly.'
In 1844 this situation changed when the first steam-
pumping engine, working on the Sims principle, was imported from England.
Mines for the first time could be deepened into more lucrative lead reserves. No
tangible evidence remains of this engine but it was the first of many which
heralded a period of prosperity for Linares.
There was renewed interest in the lead mines when Spanish mining laws
and tariffs were modified to attract foreign investment. During 1849 the British
owned Linares Lead Mining Association introduced a 30-inch cylinder steam-
powered pumping engine at the Pozo Ancho mine. A further 30-inch engine was
added a few years later for winding (whim engine) and to operate an ore
crushing. Both engines were manufactured in Cornwall, England, and the
remains of both engine houses are intact. (Figure 1) Ultimately Pozo Ancho
came under the management of John Taylor and Sons, a London based firm of
mine owners, managers and consultants, who established other companies in
the area (Fortuna and Alamillos) that all utilized steam technology. Taylors also
established a smelting plant at the Fortuna mine, now ruinous, although
substantial interpretable structures survive.
Thomas Sopwith junior from northern England first visited Linares in
1863 and in the following year established the Spanish Lead Company to work
La Tortilla mine, 3kms west of Linares. Between 1864 and 1900 steam-pumping
engines (two Cornish type engine houses survive) and other surface
installations were constructed as well as a significant lead works with a shot
tower, flues and chimneys.
In the La Carolina area, British companies established a significant
presence at El Centenillo, where Cornish type engine houses also survive.
Spanish mining companies soon acquired steam technology. The Arrayanes
mine for example, managed by the Spanish Government purchased three
pumping engines from the Williams' Perran Foundry, Cornwall (one engine
The French La Cruz Company established a settlement, and large smelt
works to the north of the town, parts of which still survive, that includes a shot-
tower partly constructed in a shaft. Further to the northeast the Spanish-French
Sociedad Escombreras Bleyberg Company worked the Coto de la Luz mine,
and erected a large bull engine on the San Pascual shaft. The engine, boiler
house, and chimney survive and provide the sole example of this type of facility
where the pumping beam was mounted over the shaft, directly below the steam
In addition to the distinct forms of housing used for pumping engines, the
area is dotted with those used for winding engines, and ore dressing machinery.
Head frames also abound, many constructed from stone. (Figure 2) Metal head-
frames are mainly associated with the later phases of mining in the 20th
century, but the headframe at Majada Honda, imported from Cornwall, dates
from the 19th century. The photograph of El Mimbre mine (Figure 3) shows a
typical late 19th century surface layout of a working mine at Linares, with two
Figure 2. La Gitana Mine, Linares, Spain: The stone built head-frame and engine house
on Rivero Shaft are explained on the information panel. (Author)
Figure 3. El Mimbre Mine, Linares. A typical late 19th century lead mine with steam
engines used for winding (top middle) and pumping. The ore-processing area is in the
foreground. (Author's Collection)
At Linares, water was pumped directly to the surface where it was stored
in numerous circular reservoirs to be used in boilers or for ore dressing. It
wasn't until the 1950s that a major scheme was undertaken to dewater the area
with a 12kms long drainage tunnel. In the La Carolina area, mines drainage was
partly achieved with adits.
By the 1860s, there were railway links to the area, and eventually up to
five companies were used to link the area to coalfields and ports, for the
exportation of lead and the importation of coal. A tram system was also
established to link the town to the more significant mines, for workforce
Figure 4. El Mimbre Mine, Linares. The ruinous state of the mine in 2012. Olive trees
now grow on the area once occupied by ore processing operations and the spoil tip.
(Antonio Ángel Pérez Sánchez, Linares)
Mining came to an end in the 1990s and has since been replaced by
agriculture, which certainly in the Linares area, has put some of the mine
structures at risk. When Spain joined the European Union in 1986 the economy
took a leap forward. The ensuing national building programme (roads, tourism
etc) provided a need for hardcore, and large areas of mine dump consisting
mainly of granite were removed, resulting in some damage to mine structures,
and also placing them out of context and isolated in the mining landscape. Olive
trees were planted in the exposed soil of the original land surface and irrigated
by water pumped from the mine workings. Figure 4 shows the El Mimbre mine
site in 2012 with its ruined buildings and encroachment of olive planting over
what was originally the dressing floors and spoil tips.
Linares, La Carolina and the surrounding towns are now very proud of
their mining heritage and this manifests itself in various ways. Mine head-
frames, for example have been erected on major routes into Linares. (Figure 5)
Figure 5. Linares: A late 20th century head-frame now relocated to a road island on the
southern approach to the town. (Author)
The Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes, a mining heritage organisation, play a
significant part in promoting mining heritage as a cultural resource, and provide
support for mining heritage initiatives in the towns within the lead mining field,
and also the surrounding areas.
Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes
The Proyecto Arrayanes was originally formed in the 1990s, managed by
salaried staff, as an initiative to give youngsters various skills that could provide
a future career, for example building, welding etc. To achieve this, several
historic buildings in the town underwent restoration, like those associated with
the Constancia Foundry, now used as offices, and the Madrid Railway Station
and warehouses that are now used for functions, and exhibitions.
The author first visited Linares in 1978 after becoming aware, through
other mining history research that a considerable number of steam engines had
been taken to the area by British registered mining companies. A further visit in
1979, and additional research, resulted in an article about the Linares mining
Eventually, a member of the Colectivo contacted the author in the
early 1990s and various follow up visits were made, including a particularly
informative excursion to an English cemetery in the town.
Inevitably, the Colectivo's work became totally devoted to the mining
heritage of the area. In 1993, for example the first initiative of many was
launched to promote the Madrid Station as a possible mining museum,
something that was achieved in the early 21st century.
In 1998, the Proyecto Arrayanes was re-formed as a Colectivo, a non-
profit association whose members were, and still are, volunteers. They include
ex-miners, lecturers, engineers and even a civil guard. Their purpose is to
protect the important mining heritage, and the mining landscape, of the whole
mining district from La Carolina in the north to Linares in the south. Their remit
is to raise public awareness of the rich mining heritage of the area, and deal
with all matters relating to the mines, even aspects of mine safety, from a public
perspective. One of the first initiatives of the Colectivo was to record and
catalogue the mining structures and this is now available on their Internet site.
Their internet site also provides information about the organisation, as well as
announcing forthcoming mining heritage events.
In 2005, the Colectivo joined the European Mining Heritage Network
(Europamines), that was formed with the support of the European Union Culture
Programme 2000, which brought them into contact with like-minded
organisations. This involvement led to the publication, of what was then a
significant booklet, 'Interpreting the Ruins of Cornish Design Engine Houses,'
produced in both English and Spanish, and was a joint venture between
Spanish, English (Cornish) and Irish partners.
The Colectivo now have an office in the centre of Linares, and their
involvement in the surrounding mining area has grown. They have, established
some 58 kilometres of footpaths around the mines of the district, with signage
and interpretation panels on six particular routes, that are all documented in a
series of booklets, for example, 'Sendero de la Garza y San Andrés.'
addition, for the last six years a series of walks, "One million steps for the
mining heritage," to various mine sites, has attracted a wide following of local
participants of all ages. Other aspects of the mining history are covered by
publications, for example the overall historic setting of the mining industry
and the influence of British mining companies on the industry
and the town.
In 2016, Linares and surrounding towns hosted the 11th International
Mining History Congress which attracted over 100 delegates from as far away
as USA, Australia, and Japan. Other mining-related conferences have been
attracted to Linares including thoses specialising in Geochemistry and Geology.
The Colectivo liaise with various levels of government on aspects of
culture and tourism, at Linares, Jaen Province, and the Autonomous Region of
Andalucía. One recent initiative was to bring together all the relevent
departments of the mining towns to promote the mining culture of the region.
Several mining museums / interpretation centres have / are being
established in the area (i) Madrid Station, Linares that emphasises the mining
landscape, (ii) The Aquisgrana Centre in La Carolina that provides an
underground interpretation, and (iii) Argaric settlement in Baños de la Encina
that examines early mining.
In the longer term various other ambitious projects are under
consideration, including an assessment of the 1950s drainage tunnel with a
view to provide a genuine underground experience to the public.
Currently, restoration work is proceeding at the La Tortilla Mine and a
further interpretation centre is under construction at the mine.
La Tortilla Mine
The surface remains of La Tortilla mine extend for just over 3kms, from the
Victoria shaft in the south, to two tall chimneys to the north. (Figure 6) Originally
a mine road, now bisected by a major highway, connected all the shafts with the
ore-dressing works. There is a small winding engine house and chimney (early
20th century) at the Victoria shaft. Northwards lie the two pumping engine
houses and chimneys of Santa Annie and San Federico shafts (1880s) and a
small winding engine house that served both shafts. Adjacent to the new
highway lies Worthington shaft with boiler house and chimney (1897) that once
supplied steam to operate underground pumping engines. This whole area has
recently been surveyed and excavated and restoration work has been
undertaken. In addition, a visitor centre is being constructed immediately to the
south of the Santa Annie shaft that will eventually be landscaped to merge with
the surrounding landscape.
Figure 6. La Tortilla Mine, Linares, Spain: Engine houses (left - Santa Annie and
central - San Federico and Worthington boiler house to rear) and smelt-works that
include a shot tower, (right) and two smelter chimneys (distant right) that dominate the
North of the highway lies a large area of mine waste, and then the
foundations of the ore dressing area, and various buildings that served as
workshops, housing and even a chapel. The dressing floors are well-
and were powered by small waterwheels, and a portable steam
engine, as well as manual jigging. Immediately to the west lies the chimney
associated with another Cornish pumping engine house (1867), on Palmerston
Shaft. Until recently, an olive oil factory was operating in the vicinity of
Palmerston shaft. The process produced a significant volume of residues that
now cover much of the shaft area.
A disused railway line separates the dressing floors from the lead works
that are enclosed by a wall. Mining ceased at La Tortilla in 1903, but the lead
works continued operations and were taken over by a subsidiary of the
Peñarroya Company in 1907 and operated it until its closure in 1967.
Consequently, many of the original buildings are intact. The low buildings that
housed the ore smelting hearths, furnaces, and desilverization plant occupy the
west side of the site. The eastern half is dominated by a shot tower and
buildings that once housed machinery for lead sheets and piping production
(now partly demolished), in addition to railway sidings that were added to the
site in the 1880s. Northwards, a series of zig-zagging flues, interrupted by a
concrete lead condensing unit installed by the Peñarroya Company, terminate
at two tall chimneys.
The whole site dominates the western approach to Linares. The highway
that bisects the site is one of the main west-east routes through Andalucía, and
connects with the main route from Madrid to the south coast just 5 kilometres to
the west. It is hoped that once it is completed, La Tortilla mining interpretation
scheme, will draw more visitors to the area, and further raise public awareness,
of just how unique the Linares / La Carolina mining landscape is to Spain.
The Mining Landscape: A summary and Conclusion
It cannot be emphasised how unique the mining landscape of Linares is in
terms of 19th century world mining history, with its concentration of buildings,
and the variations that it exhibits in the utilization of steam power. The Linares /
La Carolina area would not have been worked so successfully without the
introduction of steam pumping equipment, enabling mine workings to extend
down to depths of over 600m. Today, the Pozo Ancho mine is still dominated by
two Cornish type engine houses, the oldest in the area, dating from 1849.
However, the engine houses at La Tortilla, being relatively recent, are in a
better state of preservation. The resulting mining landscape, with its many
components is a monument to mining heritage, and is perhaps only rivalled by
the Cornish mining landscape of England, now a world heritage site.
The recording and cataloguing of the mining landscape by the Colectivo
is a continuous process and new aspects of the area's rich mining history are
continually being discovered. To date, the Colectivo have divided the area into
sixteen specific areas each one containing: mining sites, archaeological sites,
ore dressing and metallurgical installations, transport routes, mining villages,
etc., over 2000 specific remains in 520 sites, that includes over 30 Cornish type
Thanks to the
consistent efforts of the Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes
local and provincial governments, as well as the population, are increasingly
becoming convinced that mining heritage is a very important asset, and that
what remains is worth safeguarding and publicizing for present and future
generations to appreciate.
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