Mining district brief History

A brief history of the area

Four thousand years of mining history have shaped a unique landscape. It is a testament to how humans have interrelated with their environment since the Bronze Age. It started with the Argarica Culture that came from the south-west looking for copper. They established several large settlements along the beds of the rivers that flow southward from the Sierra Morena. The settlement of Peñalosa, studied by archaeologists from the University of Granada, was the focal point of a systematic colonization of the area. The Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes has identified several mines exploited for copper in that period.

The Bronze Age settlement of Peñalosa dominates a hilltop.  The Sierra Morena forms the backdrop.

The Bronze Age settlement of Peñalosa dominates a hilltop. The Sierra Morena forms the backdrop.


A Roman bas-relief thought to depict miners.  Discovered near Linares in 1875.

A Roman bas-relief thought to depict miners. Discovered near Linares in 1875.

Later, Romans and Carthaginians sought the cooperation of the Iberian people to exploit their rich copper and lead deposits. The Romans established several mines near Linares (including Arrayanes and La Cruz) and in the Sierra Morena (El Centenillo and Salas de Galiarda), where mining and metallurgical activity assumed great importance as is testified by associated defensive fortifications.

The Romans applied cutting edge technology to the mines; well preserved Roman waterwheels and Archimedes screws were discovered at El Centenillo in 1911.

The Iberian town of Cástulo, near Linares, was the capital of the mining district during the Roman period. Registries dating from 1563, referring to mining concessions in the area, point to continued mineral exploitation in the Middle Ages and the period of Moorish domination. In 1749, the Spanish Crown took an interest in the district, choosing to work the Arrayanes Mine. Mining assumed a new and important impetus which attracted many technicians and specialized workers from the Almaden mercury mines, 130 kilometres to the north-west.


The Heritage of the Industrial and Mining activity

The mining and smelting activities around Linares - La Carolina, particularly during the 19th century, produced a great variety of mining structures that changed the appearance of the region and left their mark in the towns and villages; they created a distinctive mining landscape. The ore dressing floors, significant features in themselves, gave rise to huge accumulations of waste, and in the 20th century tailings and dams. The introduction of steam power in the mid-19th century resulted in the widespread removal of trees and bushes for fuel and provoked frequent conflicts in addition to those arising from the contamination. Life in the cities and villages, and indeed the entire social structure of the region changed quickly as it adapted to the newly industrialized society. This resulted in the emergence of a new social order, particularly the rise of a new middle-class comprising engineers and specialized workers from other areas and countries. The population of the Linares expanded rapidly. At one time there were so many British mine workers in Linares, a British Vice-Consul was established in the town and survived until 1948. One of the duties of the Vice-Consul was to maintain the small English Cemetery on the edge of the town.

The cemetery, in it's tranquil setting still survives, and will be visited during the Congress.

The cemetery, in it's tranquil setting still survives, and will be visited during the Congress.


The first Cornish pumping engine was installed in Pozo Ancho Mine in 1849 by the Linares Lead Mining Association. The technology proved to be such a success that a great proportion of the area's mines were equipped with these leviathans of the industrial world. John Taylor and Son's took over the management of the Association in 1852 and established other companies in the area. The Linares Lead Mining Company, together with its sister companies, Fortuna and Alamillos, paid up to three relatively sizeable dividends per annum. So much so that they were sometimes referred to as 'three drops of comfort'. The Linares Lead Mining Company has the distinction of paying its 100th dividend in 1898. Probably an achievement never accomplished by any other 19th century lead mining company.

 Pozo Ancho mine: Winding engine house (left) and pumping engine house (right)

Pozo Ancho mine: Winding engine house (left) and pumping engine house (right)


The Colectivo Proyecto Arrayanes have catalogued 34 Cornish type engine houses in the district. Their robustness has allowed them to continue to stand out as distinct reference points in the landscape and as symbols of industrial architecture. They are now recognized as the second largest concentration of pumping engine houses in the world. An extensive network of paths, roads and railways connect the remains throughout the area and across the territory of eight municipalities.

Boiler houses were less sturdy than the pumping engine houses and there are fewer preserved examples. One exception are the boiler houses erected by the Sopwith Company. Thomas Sopwith junior, came from the north of England to Linares in 1864 to manage the La Tortilla mine to the west of the town. Later he also worked the La Gitana mine. Many of the engine and boiler houses still survive, such as that at Santa Annie shaft at La Tortilla Mines.

At other mines, for example San Andres shaft, only the stone foundations for the three boilers remain. Some 84 remains of this type of building have been catalogued, but only about 12 are in good condition.

At least three direct action engines ("Bull Engines") were installed in the district. One example was built with red bricks and round windows over a set of underground tunnels and rooms. The French style house of San Andres is one of only three of "Bull" type that we think still exist in the world It is very well integrated into a landscape that is also of great ecological value.

The San Andres mine 'Bull' engine house.

The San Andres mine 'Bull' engine house.


Mina antoñita

The iron headgear of Mina Antoñita

A significant example of winding technology is the iron headgear of Mina Antoñita.

The plaque on one of the girders indicates that it was manufactured at the Penryn Foundry, Cornwall, probably between 1853 and 1887. In 1883, there were 88 winding engines working in the district.

The Colectivo have catalogued about 234 winding engine houses, usually well preserved, many of which wound using flat rope. In addition, there are 20 iron headgears and 27 stone headgears, all of them very well preserved. Several of the iron headgears associated with 20th century mining have been removed and now take pride of place on several traffic roundabouts at the entrances to Linares.

We do not know of any other place in the world with similar number of headgears constructed from stone and, thus, we consider them as a defining element of the mining heritage of Linares.


Iron headgear

Manufactured at the Penryn Foundry, Cornwall.

There is another excellent example of a beam winding engine house in Briones shaft close La Esmeralda Mine. It is very similar to the restored engine at Levant Mine, Cornwall (Rowe, C. 1998), and was probably installed in the 1840s making it the first engine of the steam era in the area.

In the dressing works, the ore was crushed and the galena separated from the waste before transport to the smelting works. Six important lead-smelters (La Cruz, Arroyo Hidalgo, La Esperanza, La Tortilla, La Fortuna and San Luis) were working at the same time in Linares and three more in La Carolina. In these, the galena was smelted to give metallic lead (Anonymous report, 1877). The La Tortilla smelter, founded by Thomas Sopwith in 1874, became in 1885 the most modern and complete in Europe (Vernon 2013).

La Cruz Foundry was created in 1830 by the Marquis of Remisa and, later, was bought by the Neufville family of Paris (Guía de Linares y su provincia, Jaén, 1880., 1993). It was the last foundry to be closed in the district in 1986 and remains well preserved (Guía de Linares y su provincia, Jaén, 1880., 1993). Currently, there are four shot towers preserved in good condition, two in Linares (La Cruz and La Tortilla), and two in La Carolina town. One of the shot towers at La Cruz is unique as it has been partly constructed within a mine shaft.

Vapor was progressively replaced by electricity. The power stations generating electricity from hydraulic power or by steam.

One of the most important company was Mengemor, from 1907 signed supply contracts with major mining district, resulting from hydroelectric power stations (100 años de la Compañía Sevillana de Electricidad, 1994). Previously, small local companies generate electricity for lighting as well "Linarense de Electricidad" with its hydroelectric plant "El Arquillo" in the Guadalimar river (1897), or the "Salto de Escuderos" promoted by La Cruz and Arrayanes to supply the mines (1896) (Revista Minera 1896 y 1899).

Apart from this supplemented water-powered generators with steam turbines, at several mines such as El Guindo, steam-powered generators were installed. Elsewhere in the district many structures show signs of the equipment being converted from steam to electricity power.

Lead mining ceased at Linares in the 1990s. The town supported a motor manufacturing industry, but this has and finished and is now a major centre for the olive industry, and the production of olive oil.