Over four volumes the book explores the mining history of Spain's Sierra Almagrera and Las Herrerías. Journey "back in time" and learn how lumps of rock were extracted and of the alchemy that transformed them into lead, silver and iron.
Volume One examines the History, Science and Technology that shaped the Sierra Almagrera's mining heritage.
Volume Two sees iron ore gain supremacy over lead and silver, and the Men from Bilbao introduce mechanisation.
Volume Three investigates how water was harvested in this arid region, and examines the impact of modern-day farming on this precious resource.
Volume Four delves into the working lives of those men and boys who spent months on end toiling to make the mine owners rich, and the effect that such work had on them.
Why did this book come about
This work was never intended as a serious research document, but somehow it became a rather detailed study, not just of the Sierra Almagrera, but of the surrounding area. Its haphazard development now makes it very difficult for me to acknowledge all of my sources. So many pictures and so much information was grabbed from internet searches, often after going down several pathways, that I have no idea where some of it came from.
My primary source was the book, Sierra Almagrera y Herrerías: Un Siglo de Historia Minera. [Cuevas del Almanzora, 1828-1936] by Enrique Fernádez Bolea. While fascinating, detailed and eminently scholarly it is not for the faint hearted. The other publication, this time a digital one, that became my secondary source was Hastial 2012, in particular, the article by Antonio Gonzáles Jódar and José Manuel Sanchis, called Desagües y Socavones de Sierra Almagrera. Reading it for the first time was like walking into Aladdin's cave!
I was fortunate enough to meet Señors Bolea and Jódar by chance in the Barranco del Jaroso. Haltingly, I explained that I was writing some notes for English visitors to the area, and would they mind if I used information and pictures from their works. Both, unhesitatingly, gave me permission, for which I cannot thank them enough.
I found my way around the Sierra by using Google Earth and José Manuel Sanchis’s photographs of the various mines. These wonderful pictures can be found at mtiblog.com (localidades Andalucía). I have used some of them in this book when they illustrate a point better than one of my own photos. Quite often mti gives the coordinates for a mine’s location, so the track up to it can be found using Google Earth.
Don’t worry if you miss the path on your first attempt, I frequently failed on the second, and sometimes the third, attempt. While Bajo los Espartales has good then and now photographs and J.M. Sanchis is the present day chronicler of the remains of the mining industry in the Sierra Almagrera, tribute has to be paid to José Rodrigo Navarro as the 19th century chronicler. Between 1874 and 1883 he photographed so many of the mining installations in the area. His wonderful pictures give us so much insight into what it was like all those years ago. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the detail and clarity of Rodrigo’s make them worth many thousands of words.