The Info List - Almadén

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(Spanish pronunciation: [almaˈðen]) is a town and municipality in the Spanish province of Ciudad Real, within the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. The town is located at 4° 49' W and 38° 46' N and is 589 meters above sea level. Almadén
is approximately 300 km south of Madrid
in the Sierra Morena. The name Almadén
is from the Arabic word المعدن al-maʻdin, meaning 'the mine'. Originally a Roman (then Moorish) settlement, the town was captured in 1151 by Alfonso VII
Alfonso VII
and given to the Knights of the Order of Calatrava. The mercury deposits of Almadén
account for the largest quantity of liquid mercury metal produced in the world. Approximately 250,000 metric tons of mercury have been produced there in the past 2,000 years.


1 Mining

1.1 Introduction of convict labor in mine

1.1.1 Daily life at Almadén

1.2 Slave labor 1.3 1645 to present

2 See also 3 External links 4 References



The geology of the area is characterised by volcanism. Almadén
is home to the world's greatest reserves of cinnabar, a mineral associated with recent volcanic activity, 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 Fuggers
of Augsburg, two German bankers, administered the mines during the 16th and 17th centuries in return for loans to the Spanish government. Mercury became very valuable in the Americas in the mid 16th century due to the introduction of amalgamation, a process that uses mercury to extract the metals from gold and silver ore. The demand for mercury grew, and so did the town's importance as a center of mining and industry. Most of the mercury produced at this time was sent to Seville, then to the Americas. The dangerous working conditions of the mines made it difficult for the Fuggers
to find willing laborers. As the demand for mercury grew, the idea of convict labor was introduced. Introduction of convict labor in mine[edit] After the Fuggers
failed to meet production quotas in 1566, 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. The first group of forzados arrived at Almadén
at the end of February 1566. Daily life at Almadén[edit] A steady run of complaints to the king in the 1580s led to an investigation of convict living conditions at Almadén
in 1593. The investigation was conducted by royal commissioner and famous author Mateo Alemán, and was based largely on convict interviews. The mine at Almadén
provided forzados with acceptable living conditions. Each convict received daily rations of meat, bread, and wine. Each year, a forzado was issued a doublet, one pair of breeches, stockings, two shirts, one pair of shoes, and a hood. Medical care was available at the infirmary, and the mine even housed its own apothecary. Despite these good offerings, the danger of death or sickness from mercury poisoning was always present. 24% of convicts at Almadén between 1566 and 1593 died before their release dates, most often because of mercury poisoning. Nearly all prisoners experienced discomfort due to mercury exposure. Common symptoms included severe pains in any part of the body, trembling limbs, and loss of sanity. Most of the men at the furnaces died from poisoning. Forzados were also forced to bail water out of the mines. These men escaped the dangers of mercury exposure, but suffered exhaustion on a daily basis. A group of four men had to bail out 300 buckets of water without rest. Those that could not meet this quota were whipped. Sick prisoners were not exempt from this practice. Death was common, and the convicts wished to provide a proper burial for each of the men that died at the mine. A religious confraternity was formed, conducted by a prior who was administrator of the mine for the Fuggers. The prior also chose devout convicts to serve as officials. Mass was held on Sundays and feast days, and non-attendance was punishable by fine. Slave labor[edit] North African slaves were purchased directly from slaveholders to work alongside the convicts. These slaves were often much cheaper than others on the market at the time, and by 1613, slaves outnumbered forzados by a two-to-one ratio. 1645 to present[edit]

from Almaden, Hand-colored copper-plate engraving by James Sowerby, 1811

from Almaden

In 1645, the Fugger concession was cancelled and the mines were taken over by the state, to be managed by the royal government. All capital criminals were to be sent to Almadén
by court order in 1749, but the mine simply could not accommodate all of them. The act was cancelled in 1751. Two disastrous fires occurred in 1775 that were blamed on the forzados. Safer mining technology was introduced in the last quarter of the 18th century, and free laborers began to take interest in the mine again. By the end of the century, free workers had replaced most of the slave labor. The penal establishment at Almadén
was closed in 1801. In 1835, during the First Carlist War, the mine was leased indefinitely to the Rothschild Bank. The price paid was high, but one of the Rothschild family firms had previously purchased the quicksilver mine in Idrija
(now in Slovenia) from Austria; thus the firm had a monopoly on quicksilver (until discovery of New Almaden in California). Volume was expanded and the metal sold at a substantial markup returning a substantial profit to both Spain
and the firm. Spain
reclaimed the mine in 1863.[1] 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 US$571 in 1965 to US$121 in 1976 making economic planning 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 by falling demand. However, Almadén
still has one of the world's largest mercury resources. Alamden is now a World Heritage Site, Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija. A museum has been built, including visit to the mines (areas from 16th to 20th century). See also[edit]

Huancavelica, the other major source of mercury in the Spanish Empire The New Almaden Quicksilver Mine in Santa Clara County, California

v t e

World Heritage Sites in Spain

For official site names, see each article or the List of World Heritage Sites in Spain.

North West

Caves of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain1 Monuments of Oviedo
and the Kingdom of the Asturias Roman walls of Lugo Route of Santiago de Compostela1 Santiago de Compostela Tower of Hercules

North East

Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests5 Caves of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain1 Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon Pirineos - Monte Perdido2 Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin1 Route of Santiago de Compostela1 San Millán Yuso and Suso Monasteries Vizcaya Bridge

Community of Madrid

Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests5 Aranjuez
Cultural Landscape El Escorial University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares


Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests5 Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida Archaeological Site of Atapuerca Ávila with its Extra-mural Churches Burgos Cathedral Cáceres Cuenca Heritage of Mercury. Almadén
and Idrija3 Las Médulas Monastery of Santa María of Guadalupe Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin1 Route of Santiago de Compostela1 Salamanca Segovia
and its Aqueduct Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde4 Toledo


Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco, Tarragona Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí Ibiza
( Biodiversity
and Culture) Palau de la Música Catalana
Palau de la Música Catalana
and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona Palmeral of Elche Poblet Monastery Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin1 Serra de Tramuntana Silk Exchange in Valencia Works of Antoni Gaudí


Alhambra, Generalife
and Albayzín, Granada Cathedral, Alcázar and General Archive of the Indies, Seville Dolmens Site of Antequera Doñana Historic Centre of Córdoba Renaissance
Monuments of Úbeda
and Baeza Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin1

Canary Islands

Garajonay San Cristóbal de La Laguna Teide National Park

1 Shared with other region/s 2 Shared with France 3 Shared with Slovenia 4 Shared with Portugal 5 Shared with other regions in Spain
and other countries in Europe

v t e

Municipalities in the province of Ciudad Real

Abenójar Agudo Alamillo Albaladejo Alcoba Alcolea de Calatrava Alcubillas Alcázar de San Juan Aldea del Rey Alhambra Almadenejos Almadén Almagro Almedina Almodóvar del Campo Almuradiel Anchuras Arenales de San Gregorio Arenas de San Juan Argamasilla de Alba Argamasilla de Calatrava Arroba de los Montes Ballesteros de Calatrava Bolaños de Calatrava Brazatortas Cabezarados Cabezarrubias del Puerto Calzada de Calatrava Campo de Criptana Caracuel de Calatrava Carrizosa Carrión de Calatrava Castellar de Santiago Cañada de Calatrava Chillón Ciudad Real Corral de Calatrava Cózar Daimiel El Robledo Fernán Caballero Fontanarejo Fuencaliente Fuenllana Fuente el Fresno Granátula de Calatrava Guadalmez Herencia Hinojosas de Calatrava Horcajo de los Montes La Solana Las Labores Llanos del Caudillo Los Cortijos Los Pozuelos de Calatrava Luciana Malagón Manzanares Membrilla Mestanza Miguelturra Montiel Moral de Calatrava Navalpino Navas de Estena Pedro Muñoz Picón Piedrabuena Poblete Porzuna Pozuelo de Calatrava Puebla de Don Rodrigo Puebla del Príncipe Puerto Lápice Puertollano Retuerta del Bullaque Ruidera Saceruela San Carlos del Valle San Lorenzo de Calatrava Santa Cruz de Mudela Santa Cruz de los Cáñamos Socuéllamos Solana del Pino Terrinches Tomelloso Torralba de Calatrava Torre de Juan Abad Torrenueva Valdemanco del Esteras Valdepeñas Valenzuela de Calatrava Villahermosa Villamanrique Villamayor de Calatrava Villanueva de San Carlos Villanueva de la Fuente Villanueva de los Infantes Villar del Pozo Villarrubia de los Ojos Villarta de San Juan Viso del Marqués

External links[edit]

Chapter on convict labor at mines “Parque Minero de Almadén”, official website of the mines

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Almadén.


^ Egon Caesar Corti; translated by Brian; Beatrix Lunn (1928). The Reign of the House of Rothschild (hardcover) (1st ed.). New York: Cosmopolitian Book Corporation. pp. 110–112,150. 

A. Hernández; M. Jébrak; P. Higueras; R. Oyarzun; D. Morata; J. Munhá (1999). "The Almadén
mercury mining district, Spain". Mineralium Deposita. 34 (5–6): 539–548. doi:10.1007/s0