Viva Las Cruces
Classic Plant & Machinery|April 2017

Coal is important for Spain’s economy, but it is not the country’s only indigenous raw material.

The Iberian pyrite belt, a mineral-rich 250km long and 40km wide area that stretches across the south-west of the peninsula from Seville in Andalusia and across the border past Huelva and into Portugal, contains valuable supplies of nickel, zinc, copper and gold.

Not long ago there were numerous surface and deep mines in both countries. Today, just a handful remains. In Portugal, the biggest is believed to be the Neves Corvo underground zinc/copper mine, and in our last two issues we reported on the re-opening of one the former Spanish Rio Tinto copper mines.

Not far from here is Cobre Las Cruces (CLC), one of the two largest surface copper mines in southern Spain. Located midway between the village of Minas de Rio Tinto and Seville, and close to the village of Gerena, the colourful Las Cruces deposit lies near the eastern edge of the Iberian Pyrite Belt.

Initially mined by Canadian firm Inmet Mining, this company was acquired by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) - another Canadian firm - in 2013. With nearly 1,000ha of land, FQM is mining part of a 40m-thick and very rich ore body that remained undetected for many years. Buried below 100 to 150m of marl, no other deposits have been found in the immediate area, and without modern detection techniques the deposit would probably have remained off the radar.

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