A chance to visit a new country

The field trip to southern Spain, through eastern Andalucia, to the Linares lead-mining (Jaén) and Puertollano coal-mining districts and then to the gold and agate-bearing Miocene Rodalquilar volcano. This area of Cabo da Gato in Almería turned out to be 'a slice of North Africa' (and the weather felt like it with temps in the forties and vegetation to match) and also a Global Geopark (though the signs for it were a bit sparse)! Spain turned on astonishing summer weather (almost the only hot days in 2010 after all the Icelandic volcanic ash) as well as the spectacle of World Cup celebration with football fans partying every night. Thank heavens the conference bag included a Spanish fan!

Spain was an excellent choice to learn about the theme because mining activities are older than agricultural and pastoral ones and since ancient times, man has needed mineral resources to survive. From the time that Homo sapiens explored Palaeolithic Europe, some 30,000 years ago, mineral prospecting and exploration appears. By the time of recorded history, ancient merchants and then the great empires satisfied their mineral needs from the Iberian peninsula; Phoenicians extracted silver from Tartesos (SW Europe) and the Romans mined tin from the Casiterides Islands (W Europe). The Arabs moved into the peninsula and we saw examples of their mines around the southern volcano (field trip led by Dr. Antonio Arribas Rosado of Newmont Mining Co., Denver, USA).

The 35th International Symposium and field meetings of the IUGS International Commission on the History of Geological Sciences (INHIGEO) was held in Spain from 1 to 14 July 2010. Thes conference was certainly a moveable feast! For a start, the Scientific Sessions (5-10 July) were held in two venues: Madrid and Almadén —fitting sites because the capitol has long been the principal city of historical scientific knowledge in Spain, and mining activity at Almadén dates back more than 2200 years. The first School of Mines in Spain was opened in 1777 in Almadén, later relocated to Madrid in 1835 and these establishments have produced numerous distinguished graduates, not least among them our organisers. In Madrid we visited the Mining Museum, a grand Victorianbuilding with Venetian overtones and everywhere we went, there was St Barbara, patron saint of miners and mining.

I gave my talk on "Thomas Sopwith*, the miner's friend. his contribution to the geological model-making tradition" at the Almadén School of Mines (see paper here).

After the sessions, we went by bus to the Iberian Pyritic Belt (Sevilla-Huelva) and the Mining Park of Riotinto (Huelva). Pictures from Spain...here...