Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dolly visited Lousal, an old mining town.

During our last trip in Dolly we took a detour from the the west coast went slightly inland to visit Lousal, which is located 50 kilometres from the Atlantic coast. The old sulpha mine forms part of the Iberian Pyrite Belt and is one of the most important mining regions of Europe.

The mine was operational between 1900 to 1988 being worked primarily for the extraction of Pyrite, an iron sulphide. The mining work went down from the surface 500 metres (known as shaft no 1.) The deposit of the mine was discovered in 1882 by Antonio Manuel. I guess some sort of deal took place because the mines and the area actually belong SAPEC Group, they are the last owners. Now I have this lovely leaflet that tells me all about the technical stuff. When I spoke to our guide I thought he said the company was from Belgium but when I looked it up on line it came up with asteroid  mining... I don't have anything like that on my leaflet... so moving on.

Skimming over loads of technical jargon... and I've never claimed to be an expert at history and now I must tell you, that chemistry is also questionable. However lets have a go at the geology of Lousal. Apparently the mine is divided into two horizons of sulphides.  Pyrite, the iron sulphide that is mainly predominant is accompanied by Chalcopyrite, galena, sphalerite, pyrothite, marcasite, bourmonite, tetrahedrite, cobaltite, safforite and native gold.
Believe me when I say it was so much more interesting to see all the quartz in its differing shapes and colour and seeing the history of this old working mine than it is to describe it. So in layman terms they extract from the land for  sulphuric acid, sulphur and produce FERTILISER. NOW hold onto that thought.

 End result Fertiliser.

When at the height of production the mining village prospered as did the SAPAC company. In the 1930's the village was more advanced that any where in Portugal and maybe parts of Europe, with electricity. The village population in the 1950's was 2,500 inhabitants with 1,100 miners. The mining area was organised in such away that t's self-sufficiency could be ensured, with urban space being provided with all main services, amenities and equipment to form a community. HOWEVER, when I visited the village it is now down to approximately 400 inhabitants mainly made up of older people. After the mine close in 1988 younger people had to move away to find work and the prosperity of the village just declined.

Approximately 5 years ago a regeneration programme started, which incorporates a museum tours of the mines and a science centre. They have a hotel and a restaurant, which was only open lunch time (maybe because it is winter) To be honest it was bit of a ghost town. One side of the town where they now have space for visitors to park there campers (Dolly was happy) had two coffee shops a bar and the smallest supermarket I've ever seen, which was tagged onto the coffee shop... the size of a pantry. On the other side of the town was a church a hairdressers and a larger supermarket...but not that large. It is a worth while place to visit if you are interested in mining, geology, and history. The people were lovely and they opened the mines and museums just for us, for twenty euros we had a grand tour which lasted approximately two hours. I really hope the village comes back to life through tourism and the museum.

Personal thoughts: I came away sad at the destruction of the land and all to produce Fertiliser, which is put on the land for nourishment. Big business for some a loss of livelihood for many others. We have seen it only too well in England over the years. The rise and fall of towns through industry and commerce. I'm sure it isn't as black and white as I make it seem, but I did find it very thought provoking. Especially when I saw the lakes of acid water that had been formed. One is still particularly unstable, apparently until very recently nothing had been done about the water flowing into the rivers, streams and water systems. I asked if the government had done anything to make the company accountable and apparently not. The company are now however working together with the councils and governing bodies to improve this situation.

Think I'd like to go back one day to see the progress.

 By the end of our over night stay we had met a few people, maybe 12, in the cafe and bar... gave the supermarket a miss. If your in a motor home make sure you have some provisions with you just in case. It is a beautiful area for walks and there is another town not too far away with restaurants. 

This is the most stable of the lakes  has a Ph of 5.

This lake is very unstable Ph is only 2. 

What a way to spend our 40th Anniversary and the restaurant was closed, we dined in Dolly with tins of cassoulet and a bottle of wine. 

See how advanced the equipment was back in the 30s/50s

My husband has never been a dog lover, they make him nervous. He always says packs of dogs can be unpredictable. Personally I think that's true of people. I had to take this photo because there were actually four dogs that followed him around, they wanted to be his friend... Ah well the town is rather empty.



  1. It really does look like a ghost town so the people over there must've been delighted to see you! I bet it was a strange place to celebrate your 40th wedding anniversary lol! xx

    1. We certainly added intrigue to the place. The biggest challenge for the cafe was wondering if they had enough provisions to make us a sandwich. Sometime we need to do things that are memorable. We will never forget out 40th anniversary lol xx



Eleanor Smythe Template by Ipietoon Cute Blog Design