The Rio Tinto Mines

The Rio Tinto Mines

The Río Tinto (red river) is a river in southwestern Spain that originates in the Sierra Morena mountains of Andalusia. It flows generally south-southwest, reaching the Gulf of Cádiz at Huelva. This unearthly, reddish river in southwestern Spain is unlike any you’ve ever seen before. The water gets its coloration from iron dissolved in the water and is notable for being extremely acidic. This may not sound like a suitable place to find life but living in the bizarre waters of Rio Tinto are extremophile aerobic microorganisms that feed on the iron and sulfide minerals plentiful in the river. Since ancient times, a site along the river has been mined for copper, silver, gold, and other minerals.

Arising out of the midst of the surrounding greenery, the giant opencast mines of Rio Tinto create a surreal, almost lunar landscape. The removal of layer upon layer of soil and rock, in the search for iron ore, copper, silver and a host of other mineral ores, has tinted this part of the world in hues of dusty pink, brown, yellow, red and grey. So great is the scale of operations, that the depression created resembles a man-made crater that measures several kilometers across. From the edge of the ‘crater’, a giant space opens up before you.

Walls of terraced rock, streaked with the unusual colors of mineral ores create the impression of a natural amphitheater of gargantuan proportions, that could easily be mistaken for the set of a Star Wars movie.

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