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El Conjuro Mines Spain, Busquístar, La Alpujarra, Spain.

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The El Conjuro Mines consist of several areas: El Conjuro, San Adolfo, San Augusto, Oportunidad, Virgen de las Angustias, Santa Elisa, Complemento, La Última. The deposits are spread out through the neighbouring areas of Almegíjar, Cástaras and La Taha, but the main site is located in Busquístar. The minerals are goethite, hematite, lepidocrocite, todorokite, rancieite and barite.

The mines originate from time of the Moor's and it is then that the first mining took place for the extraction of iron. However, it wasn't until 1895 when a banker from Madrid, Adolfo Bayo commissioned a mining engineer Stéphen Czyszkowski to survey the mines properly. The results where very promising and subsequently in 1899 the mines were sold to the French company Schneider et Cie., a subsidiary of El Creusot, for three million francs.

The development of the mines was hampered by the difficulty of transport access and eventually a railway was built to overcome this issue. However, this was constantly eroded and damaged by the landslides in the area due to heavy rain and wasn't that successful.

In 1954 the ownership of the mines was transferred to Minas de Hierro from El Conjuro, SA, of Ensidesa, and ore was supplied to the blast furnaces of Avilés. In 1956, the Ministry of Industry authorized the installation of an aerial rope haulage system, which entered into service in 1957. The aerial ropeway took a 18km route from the loading hoppers some 200m from the mine to a loading dock which can still be seen today at the Rules dam. From here the ore was then transported by trucks to the port of Motril.

The mines began to struggle in 1964 as the reserves of ore first documented at the turn of the century failed to materialise. The aerial cable that had been used to transport ore was frequently damaged and unusable due to the high winds present in the area resulting in many tub derailments. In 1974, mining operations stopped. Some 3 million tonnes of ore were extracted during the last 2 decades, but this fell short of expected amounts.

Currently (2018) a small amount of aggregates is extracted from the south side of the mine site. The whole site is an open cast mine, with a number of large benches still in place. Around the mine there are a number of buildings including the mine offices, weighbridge, and large ore hoppers that locate the start of the aerial ropeway. The University of Granada recently bought the whole site to study the growth of plants in iron rich soils.

A look at the remains of the mines on this large open cast site

A trip to have a chat with the miners currently working the mine and to look around the old and new workings at 1400m altitude.

(Karlie and Mike), 6th June 2018.