Less than an hour away from Almeria city is the former gold mining town of Rodalquilar.
Rodalquilar saw a gold rush that began in the 1880s and ended in the 1990s. In this gold rush, different companies and individuals in different countries Spain, Europe and America.
A British mining company first exploited the rich seam of minerals, deposited in the area by volcanic explosions under the sea 10 million years ago, at the end of the 19th century. At its peak, the town supported 1400 people but after the mines closed in the Sixties the population plummeted, leaving less than 100 people today.
Today it is one of the most interesting areas in the province of Almeria and an absolute must in the nature reserve of Cabo de Gata, its history, its metal mines, geological outcrops for scientific interest and its castles.
There are also botanical gardens next to the spectacular ruins of the gold mine.
Castillo de San Ramon
Torre de los Alumbres
One way to leave Rodalquilar is the dirt track road which goes up behind the mining installation and then all the way to Los Albaricoques. It is a very interesting road to take which gives further insight into the mining activities and into the unique landscape. From this road you can take different walking routes, one of them to Cortijo del Fraile which Federico García Lorca made so famous with his book Bodas de Sangre.
The other way to leave Rodalquilar is further along the coast into the direction of Las Negras. After about 1 km and passing the Hotel de la Naturaleza, a little road turns to the left to the Torre de los Lobos. This watchtower was built in the 18th century and is now converted into an auxiliery lighthouse. From here you have fantastic views over this part of the coast or inland to Rodalquilar. From here you can take the very nice walk down to El Playazo.
If you rather go by car you have to take the road back to the main road and then take the next turn to the left into the direction of playa de Playazo. If you follow the rambla de Playazo to the beach you see on the right the Torre de los Alumbres or Torre Fuerte de Rodalquilar, built around 1510 and the oldest of all fortifications still standing in the Natural Park. The tower was built as part of a wall surrounding a little mining village which was built up when at the beginning of the 16th century deposits of alum where discovered at Rodalquilar. The beach which comes shortly after was at that time known as Puerto de los Alumbres.
El Playazo is a fine sanded beach in a picturesque landscape with a fortress, the Castillo de San Ramón, which is now a private home, at the northern end of the beach.
Just before the Castillo there is a walking track into the direction to Las Negras which will take you about 1 hour to reach, passing on the way some beautiful viewing points, a cave and a camping place which is located near a little beach. From here the way further to Las Negras is asphalted.
Of course you can also reach Las Negras by car if you follow the road from Rodalquilar to Fernan Peréz, but you turn right before reaching Hortichuelas.
A brief history of the gold mines
The mines were nationalised and in 1942, the company called ENADIMSA was formed. This mouthful meant in English, the Adaro National Enterprise for Mining Ltd. New mines were opened and a new large smelter called the Denver Smelter was installed. By the end of the 1950s, mining reached its peak and the village of Rodalquilar grew to 1400 with facilities such as doctors and schools normally only found in large towns.
The expert’s estimation of the gold reserves proved to be wildly optimistic (see note 1) and in 1967 the mines closed. The population of the village dropped to less than 100.
There was one more effort to extract ore. In the 1980s an American enterprise called St Joe, which was a subsidiary of the multinational company Cluff Resources and Antofagasta Holdings tried. It wasn’t to be however and in 1990 the mines closed permanently.
Today the mines can be visited (with great care!) as can a new and wonderful exhibition hall next to the mines. The hall gives information about the mines, geology and terrain over the whole of Andalusia, but has a room dedicated to Rodalquilar, with a wealth of information.
Geographical study of the time said, “The mineral zone is much more extensive than might be thought. For example the area north-east of Rodalquilar, in El Madroñel parish there are deposits yielding an extraordinary 150 to 200 grams per tonne. It seems then that this area will give many benefits to the country. Spain will have gold deposits of which to date it has had little.”
Gold processing plant outside the mountain mines near the abandoned mining village of Rodalquilar
Abandoned homes of the miners' ghost town on the edge of the village along with mineshafts and a museum, which charts the history of Rodalquilar
There are many caves, and tunnels leading through the mines - use caution as some are pitch black with vertical shafts dropping straight down into the mountain