Cuevas de Almanzora, 70 km north-east of Almeria, is the principal town of the mining district in the Sierra Almagrera, a range of mountains that runs parallel to the coast for about 12 kms. Minerals were worked in the region from prehistoric times, and the towns stands in the shadow of a sixteenth century fortified palace in the Gothic style, but the principal period of extraction was in the nineteenth century following the discovery of silver, or more precisely of argentiferous lead, in 1838-39. The discovery owed much to research carried out by the Escuela de Minas in Madrid.
Within little more than a decade the population of Cuevas doubled from 8000 to 16000. Many of the mines flooded in the 1870s but the discovery in other veins of argentiferous iron brought a renewal of mining activity, due largely to the energies of the entrepreneur Jose Maria Munoz, whose statue now stands in the town square. The landscape of much of the Sierra Almagrera displays evidence of past mining activities, but the most significant industrial monument is at Barranco del Chaparral where a steam engine of 1873 made in Reading, England, stands at the head of a shaft, together with the wooden winding drums that it operated.