Hundreds protest in Spain against redevelopment of Roman-era gold mine

Their venture, however, faces opposition from the militant group Oro No, which has joined forces with other environmental initiatives as well as professional and community organizations, fishing groups, tourism associations, agricultural cooperatives and honey producers, among others.

Using the slogan ‘no to gold’, the protesters expressed concern about the impacts that mining would have on their way of life, the environment and traditional economic activities in the region. They also asked the local government to oppose the project.

Salave, however, also has backers.

Prior to the protest action, the Association for the Reindustrialization of Western Asturias (IDOA) issued a statement with 607 signatures from people supporting the mining project.

In the press release, Salave is presented as a project that would revive the region’s economy.

Ancient history

After the initial surface mining by the Romans, mining resumed at Salave in the mid-20th century, but it was mainly aimed at obtaining molybdenum in small local veins in a fairly superficial manner.

Although the mineralization includes other minerals and metals in varying concentrations, EMC says that due to its abundance, gold is what has generated significant interest from a technical and economic perspective.

It is estimated that in Roman times, between 2 and 6 million tons of rock were extracted at Salave, recovering between 5,000 and 7,000 kilograms of gold.

According to the EMC, for reasons that are not known exactly, but probably due to the difficulties of controlling the flow of water when they reached a certain depth in their works, the Romans abandoned the extraction of Salave.

Since then, there was no documented mining activity in the area until the 1940s when some minerals like molybdenum were mined for steelmaking.

In the 1960s, several companies specializing in mining research and development became interested in developing and verifying the mineralized continuity at depth that the Romans exploited on the surface.

Using geochemical, geophysical and direct prospecting techniques, the Salave mineralization model was reconstructed. Thus, its morphological, proximal, technical, environmental and economic viability was assessed.

Beyond the preliminary geochemical and geophysical studies, since the 1970s, nearly 500 boreholes of varying lengths and inclinations have been carried out in the Salave region, for a total of 65,000 meters.

The last drilling was carried out by Exploraciones Mineras del Cantábrico in 2018. Just over 2,000 meters have been drilled, with the aim of finalizing the previous drillings, confirming their results and facilitating the preparation of a feasibility study.

About William J. Harris

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