IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
By Nick Lloyd - Home - Contact


Mercury mining in Spain

Excellent article from wikipedia on the mercury* deposits of Almadén which account for the largest quantity of liquid mercury metal produced, historically, in the world. Some points: * (mercury = mercurio; cinnabar = cinabrio in Spanish)

  • Approximately 250,000 metric tons of mercury have been produced in the Almadén mines in the past 2,000 years. It is the "oldest" and largest mercury mine in the world.
  • Almadén is home to the world's greatest reserves of cinnabar , a mineral from which mercury is extracted. Cinnabar was first used for pigment by the Romans. Later, the mineral was used mostly in medicine and alchemy during the Arab domination of Spain.
  • the King of Spain agreed to send 30 prisoners to serve their sentences as laborers at Almadén. The number was increased to 40 in 1583 . The prisoners, known as forzados , were selected out of criminals waiting for transport to the galleys in the jail of Toledo . Those selected usually had limited sentences and good physical abilities. Murderers and capital criminals were rarely selected, as the galleys were considered a far harsher punishment than the mines of Almadén. This assumption would later prove false when the horrors of mercury poisoning were discovered.
  • he penal establishment at Almadén was closed in 1801 . In 1916 , a special council was created to operate the mines, introducing new technology and safety improvements. A record production of 82,000 mercury flasks was reached in 1941 , just after the Spanish Civil War .
  • The price for mercury decreased from a peak of 571 US$ in 1965 to 121 US$ in 1976 making economically planing difficult.
  • In 1981 , the Spanish government created the company Minas de Almadén y Arrayanes to operate the mine.
  • In 2000 , the mines closed due to the fall of the price of mercury in the international market, caused to the fall of its demand. However, Almadén still has one of the world's biggest reservoirs of mercury. A museum has been built, including visit to the mines (areas from 16th to 20th century). Read

External links

  • The Mariscal mine at Almaden (good, short article) " Mercury became very  valuable because of its use in the amalgamation process used to remove  gold and silver in the Americas. Almadén developed into an important  mining and industrial city, and contributed major resources to the Spanish expansion in the Americas. During the 16th and 17th centuries,  the mine belonged to German bankers who introduced numerous innovations. Most of produced mercury, was sent to Seville, from where it embarked to America."
  • Official webpage of the mines with information about museum and visit to the mines


  • Individual visits : from Tuesday to Sunday (CLOSED MONDAYS)
    Summer : May to September 10:00 to 14:00 17:00 to 19:30
    Winter: October to April 10:00 to 14:00 15:30 to 18:00

    Group visits : Group visits (minimum of 12 people) , be arranged with at least one day's notice by telephone (00 34 926265002) and preferably from Wednesday to Friday . If they are not arranged previously, reduced group prices will apply.
    • Visits to the interior of the mine are guided and take place during the above opening times every 15 minutes as long as there is a minimum number of eight visitors. Even though this minimum number is not reached, a minimum of two visits a day is guaranteed.
    • The above opening times indicate the closing time of the facilities. Therefore, visitors wishing to go on the tour down the mine (approximately 1 hour 30 minutes) must be there at least 2 hours 30 minutes before closing time.

    Type of visit Price (1)
    Individual adult (over 15s) 12 €
    Groups, individual children (7-15), and over-65s 10 €
    Groups of over-65s and students 8 €
    Children under 7 with parents . 2 €
    • The price does not include the visit to the San Rafael Miners' Hospital. The visit to the hospital has a 30% discount on presentation of the ticket to the Almadén mining park.
    • Children under the age of four years cannot go down the mine
    (1) The price has a discount of €2 while the refurbishment and museum work is being carried out on the visitors reception centre and other buildings in the mining park.


    OPENING TIMES: from Tuesday to Sunday (CLOSED MONDAYS)
    Summer : May to September 10:00 to 14:00 17:00 to 19:30
    Winter: October to April 10:00 to 14:00 15:30 to 18:00

    PRICES :   3 €   2 € when presenting of ticket of the Mining Park.


    • Visitors centre (Under construction)
    • Information and ticket office.
    • Souvenir shop (books, postcards, T-shirts, key rings, etc).
    • Left luggage office.
    • Cafe.
    • Toilets.

    Mining park of Almadén :
    Cerco de San Teodoro s/n - 13400 - Almadén (CIUDAD REAL)
    Royal Miners' Hospital of San Rafael :
    Plaza del Doctor López de Haro - 13400 - Almadén (CIUDAD REAL)

    By road :
    • CM - 415 (Ciudad Real, exit 172 - Cabezarados - Abenojar - Saceruela - Almadén ).
    • CM - 4200 (Badajoz - Chillón - Almadén).
    • N - 502 (Córdoba - Almadén).
    By train :
    • The nearest station is Almadenejos - Almadén .
      Information RENFE 00 34 902 240 202 - www.renfe.es
    By bus :
    • Almadén bus station. 00 34 926 712 084
    • From C. Real, Madrid, Barcelona, Monasterio (Badajoz), Puertollano :
      AISA 00 34 926 211 342 www.aisa-grupo.com
    • From Córdoba and Sevilla : LINESUR 00 34 957 421 585
    Almadén taxi rank. Telephone : 00 34 926 710 263


    • Estimated duration of the visit: between 2 hours 30 minutes and 4 hours.
    • Dress: Comfortable clothes and footwear for walking inside the mine.
    • Disabled access, except in the route inside the mine.
    • Local hotels and restaurants : Almadén District Tourist Office www.comarcadealmaden.com