1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Spain - Minerals

(Part 9)


Spain - Minerals

Minerals. The mineral resources of Spain are vast and varied, but are as yet far from being adequately turned to account. No European country produces so great a variety of minerals in large amount, and in the production of copper ore, lead ore, and quick-silver Spain heads the list. In the production of salt and silver it is excelled only by Austria-Hungary, and, as regards silver, not always even by it. The following table (V.) gives particulars regarding the production of some of the principal minerals in the years named :—

== TABLE ==

[301-1]. [301-2]

Of the minerals mentioned in the preceding table it will be seen that iron and copper ores are those which show the greatest advance as compared with 1863. The production of these two ores advanced with rapid strides during the ten years 1874-1883. In the former year the production of both stood at about 500,000 tons. The iron ore is chiefly obtained in Vizcaya and Murcia, the former yielding by far the greatest quantity (in 1883 four-fifths of the total production of Spain), but the latter yielding the best quality (average value of Murcian iron in 1883, 5 pesetas = 4s. per ton at the mine, as against 2.25 pesetas, or Is. 9 1/2d., the average for the Vizcayan ore). All except a small fraction of the copper ore is obtained from the province of Huelva, in which lie the well-known mines of Rio Tinto. The lead ore is obtained chiefly in Murcia and Jaen. The famous mines of Linares belong to the latter province. Argentiferous lead is chiefly produced in Almeria, which also produces most of the silver ore of other kinds except argentiferous copper ore, which is entirely obtained from Ciudad Real. The still more celebrated cinnabar (mercury) mines of Almaden, the richest in the world till the discovery of the Californian mines of New Almaden, belong to Ciudad Real, and this province, together with that of Oviedo, furnishes the whole of the Spanish production of this mineral. Spanish salt is partly marine, partly derived from brine-springs and partly from rock-salt, of which last there is an entire mountain at Cardona in Barcelona. Coal is chiefly obtained in Oviedo, Palencia, and Cordova. The production is quite insignificant compared with the extent of the coal-bearing beds, which are estimated to cover an area of about 3500 square miles, of which nearly a third belongs to Oviedo, between one-eighth and one-seventh to Burgos and Soria, and about one-tenth to Teruel and Cordova. Among the less important Spanish minerals are manganese (chiefly in Ciudad Real), antimony, gold, cobalt, . sodic sulphate, sulphate of barium (barytes), phosphorite (a valuable manure, a variety of apatite found in Cacercs), alum, sulphur, kaolin, lignite, asphalt, besides a variety of building and ornamental stones.

The total number of mines (including springs for the production of mineral waters) in operation in Spain in 1883 was 2620, and the total number of labourers employed in them in that year was 57,626. The working of the mines is carried on under state supervision. For this purpose the whole kingdom, including the Balearic and Canary Islands, is divided into three sections, and each of these into four districts. Each section is under the charge of an inspector-general of the first class, and each of the districts under an inspector of the second class. By the law of July 6, 1859, a large number of important mines, including all the salt-works and rock-salt mines, were reserved as state property, but financial necessities have compelled the Government to surrender one mine after another, so that at present the state possesses only the cinnabar mines and some saltworks. Many of the mines have been granted to foreign (principally English) companies.

Of the metallic ores produced in Spain, those of lead and mercury are the only ones which are chiefly reduced in the country. Though the working of iron is an industry of old standing in Spain, and a primitive kind of forge takes its name from Catalonia (see IRON), the total production of iron, refined and unrefined, in Spain in 1883 was only 200,000 tons, and by far the greater part of the Spanish ore is exported, as will be seen by comparing Tables V. and VI. The production of iron in Spain is, however, rapidly and steadily increasing, the total amount in the first year of the decade ending in 1883 having been less than 60,000 tons. During the same decade the amount of copper produced in the kingdom increased from about 5000 to 32,000 tons. The amount of steel produced in the kingdom is quite insignificant (little more than 400 tons in 1883). The following table (VI.) gives particulars regarding the export of the chief mineral products of Spain in 1883 :—

== TABLE ==

[301-3], [301-4], [301-5], [301-6], [301-7]


301-1 A metric ton=1000 kilogrammes = 2205 lbs., or 35 lbs. less than a ton avoirdupois.

301-2 Exclusive of 100,000 tons produced in the state salt works of Torrevieja (Alicante).

301-3 OF this total 478,000 tones were exported to Holland, 142,000 to Belgium, and 199,000 to the United States.

301-4 All the blende and one-third of the calamine were exported to Belgium.

301-5 Chiefly to Portugal.

301-6 Of this total 158,760 lbs. were exported to Belgium.

301-7 Chiefly to Cuba.

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