Mines of Guanajuato
Guanajuato had its beginnings in the discovery of prodigious silver mines, which at the end of the eighteenth century converted the city into the largest silver producer ever known up to that time. The first discoveries are shrouded in legend, making it difficult to distinguish reality from fiction. However, there seems to be no doubt that it was in the year 1558 that work began on the first mineshafts of the Rayas and Mellado mines, and it was in that same year that the famous mother lode of Guanajuato was discovered from those very mineshafts. This generous vein runs through the hills that border the city to the north and northeast, and it has left on the surface a constellation of mines and mineshafts channeling downward to catch the vein in its sinuous trajectory.
On the tops of these hills, there are quite a few impressive ruins which signal the presence of mining work. Sure enough, nestled in the spaces between these hills one finds the mines of Calderones, El Cedro, and El Cubo, at the south end of the city; and in the hills at the north end, Peregrina, Villalpando, Peñafiel, San Nicolás, Sirena, La Garrapata, Rayas-Mellado, La Cata, Tepeyac, Valenciana, Santa Ana, La Luz, and many more.
The Rayas Mine: This mine owes its name to the muleteer Juan Rayas, who discovered it in 1550. This was the first mine in Guanajuato. Its 1400 foot mineshaft is considered one of the longest in the world. Barrio of Mellado
The Cata Mine: This mine is the site of a lovely church built in the seventeenth century. Its pink cantera stone façade is baroque in style. Barrio of Cata
The Valenciana Mine: This was the most productive mine in the city, and it is still in operation. At the end of the eighteenth century and the start of the nineteenth, this mine produced two-thirds of all the silver from Guanajuato that was exported to Spain and Asia. The silver from the Valenciana mine helped support the Spanish Empire and its colonies. Barrio of Valenciana
Valenciana Mine Entrance
This mine entrance is now under the administration of the Santa Fe Mine Engineering Cooperative, which has made it into an attraction suitable for visitors. One can go down into the mineshafts and observe the work conditions of miners during the viceroyalty period. Next to the Church of Valenciana
San Ramon Mine Entrance
During the mid-sixteenth century, audacious miners went deep into the earth to extract rock containing precious metals, gold and silver. The silver mother lode is located in the center of Mexico, and the city of Guanajuato has played a major role in its exploitation, with its Valenciana mining district. The San Ramon Mine Entrance leads into the Valenciana Mine, the most important of the viceroyalty period. Some of the mine's tunnels go as deep as 450 meters (1476 ft.) below ground.
The Experimental Mine El Nopal
Exploratory work began on this mine before 1868. This was the year in which the Nopal Mine and Annexes Mining Company was formed, with the objective of exploring and exploiting the silver veins at El Nopal and other mines. Today, the mine's goal is to educate residents and visitors and provide guided tours. Tours have trained guides and accident insurance.
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