5,000 years of mining history, Europe's largest open cast mine, and a piece of Great Britain right in the middle of Andalusia – the Parque de Minero de Riotinto is not at all short of attractions. The enormous scale of the open pit Corta Atalaya - 350 m deep, and 1,200 m X 900 m in extent - mainly results from the activities of the British Holding “The Riotinto Company Limited” that took the lead in 1873. Guided tours of this man-made caldera are one of the visit's highlights. That locals worked the mines for copper, iron and other metals since antiquity is proved by a waterwheel from Roman Times. The spectacular find forms part of the mining museum which is located in the former hospital of the nearby mining community. Also on display is a luxurious railway carriage used by King Alfonso XIII for a visit to Riotinto. Parts of the old narrow-gauge line are restored, enabling the operation of a historic visitor train. The way of life of the foreign mine operators is best shown by the Victorian-style house No. 21 in a late 19th century residential area called Bellavista that has been specifically built for the British staff. Incidentally, it was here that the British introduced football to the Spaniards, thus laying the foundation for its spreading all over the country.
The 14th of February 1873 marks the beginning of a new era in Riotinto. Without delay, the new British mine operators started to heavily modernise the pit that has been worked for copper and pyrite since the Bronze Age. In particular they focused on the building of a metre-gauge railway to Huelva, 80 kilometres south, on the coast. Before its construction ores and other goods had to be reloaded several times on their way to the sea: from donkey carts to an already existing railway running in a distance of about 20 kilometres, from the train to barges in the Rio Tinto delta and, finally, to seagoing vessels moored at Huelva seaport. In July 1875 the new railroad was completed, including a 1,165 m pier that allowed direct shipping. Up to 1903 numerous branches had been added to connect the main line with the villages – and potential workforce - scattered across the region. All of that gave a decisive boost to Riotinto ore mining. When the railway stopped operations in 1975 it had witnessed 143 steam engines, mostly of British origin, 7 electric engines, 1,300 freight wagons and 40 passenger carriages running on its tracks. The current visitor train following the Rio Tinto for 12 kilometres on a restored section evokes the enormous significance of this railroad for the development of the mine.The mining community bears a clear British stamp as well. The hospital, built in 1925 by the British architect R H Morgan, provided medical care both for Riotinto Company employees and residents of the entire region. After its diligent restoration it reopened as a museum in 1992. Its displays illustrate the long mining tradition, discuss environmental and geological issues, and highlight the enthusiastic work of the Riotinto Foundation aiming at the conservation and restoration of the local and regional mining heritage. Part of this heritage is the house No. 21, reflecting the deeply British way of living that shaped the Bellavista mining settlement for more than 80 years, including a Presbyterian Chapel and an English Club.
|Recommended duration of visit:||6 Hours|
|Duration of a guided tour:||90 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
Mid July to Mid September: daily 10.30am-3pm and 4-8pm
Mid September to Mid July: daily 10.30am-3pm and 4-7pm
Timetables see site's website