The richness of Asturian subsoil has determined the improvement, social conflict and the political tendencies of the region. Although the mining sector was developing around the Caudal and Nalón rivers, all of this Principado has in some way depended on the mining industry. Even in the 1990’s, after the mining crisis of the 1970’s, the situation ended with the unemployment of many miners, but even today a quarter of the Asturian working population still depend on mining.
Photo by Infoasturias – Pillo.
To talk about mining means to talk about Asturias. For over two centuries this Principado has contributed between 50% and 70% of the whole national production of coal. This mineral is the main energy source in Spain since the mid 19th and end of the 20th centuries. In this industrial context so important for the Asturian society, we can find the cultural Museum known as the MUMI (Museo de la Minería y de la Industria), built in El Entrego (San Martín del Rey Aurelio) in 1994, completed now with the Museum of the Steel Industry (MUSI). This museum has become the most famous of all the museums in the region, because it is the most visited in Asturias and it also houses the best fittings and most interesting content. Its great success comes from its aim of cataloguing, explaining, analysing and collecting mining patrimony from different points. Here it is explained how the first explosives were made. It also explains the unfortunate dates provoked by the grisú, and at the same time it pays much attention to the daily life of miners in the shafts.
Unfortunately, there are many Asturians who have lost a relative, neighbour or friend in the mines and many of the survivors suffer from chronic disease. The hard work involved is well represented in the dark galleries of the MUMI (virtual mine). The IMAGE MINE is a perfect recreation of the conditions at work and the secrets of a real mine in which a threatening silence envelops the underground area. Visitors have access to the mine through a hydraulic lift similar to a cage that descends to a depth of 600 m. Our visit is guided at all by a professional. To go down this mine does not compare to actually being a miner but it does help us to understand a miner’s day of work. Here we can discover how the coal is taken out and transported to the surface. At the time we walk down the mine we can observe how the technological evolution has taken place also in the mining industry. It is compulsory to take a safety helmet to go down the mine to appreciate this “subculture”.
How can we get to the MUMI?
The MUMI is located next to the San Vicente well, on the shores of the Nalón river, this well was managed by the SOMA during the 1930’s. The building occupies an area of 27000 square metres and its dependencies, 5000. It is a two storey building that houses hundreds of valuable pieces. Among them we find a draining machine from the 15th century, a steam machine from the beginnings of the 20th century and different models of Newcomen and Watt’s vapour machines. Other things we can observe are Asturian mineral collections, cartography collections, topography and chemistry, photographs and data and stories about coal and the miners. The house of bathrooms reproduces not only he items but also the environment of dependency which stands at the entrance and exit of the well.
In this room miners talked about daily things, but in old times it was the chosen place for the trade unionist demonstrations. Now we get closer to the place where all the ancient lanterns maintain the environment of old times. Then we make stops at the infirmary to observe the Rescue Brigade, the chemistry laboratories and the House of Explosives where gunpowder was mainly manufactured.
The history of the Asturian mining
The History of Mining is present all along the fittings of MUMI. The mining consolidation in Asturias dated from the second half of the 18th century, when the literate men supported the extraction of coal as an improvement of the economy of the country. Previously, in the central area of Asturias, the peasants extracted the coal by themselves with poor means in the councils of Siero and Langreo. Little by little, the national and international capital found extractory companies began to spread in both valleys in the centre of Asturias. In these valleys, coal has been appearing throughout a long geological process of sedimentation, favoured by the environments abundant vegetation, together with rainy weather that greatly helped the formation of this mineral.
The railway from Langreo to Gijón is one of the greatest landmarks of the Asturian industry. It was inaugurated in August, 1853. The train carried 103000 tons of coal yearly while the Coal Road only carried 34000. This was the starting point to open the gates to mass production. In 1850, 60000 tons were exported and in 1890 the production increased to 620000 tons of coal.
In the year 1890 the first general srike took place and it lasted for two weeks. Its aim was to reduce the working day to 12 hours and they also asked for a wage increase. From this moment onwards miners became more demanding with regards to their rights.
The working movement in this region began in 1910 under the name S. O. M .A (Sindicato de Obreros Mineros de Asturias) founded by Manuel Llaneza. In 1919, 84,5% of the miners were affiliated to this trade union. In 1920 there were 34000 miners in Asturias.
The Asturian mines played an important part in the history of Spain. On October the 4th, 1934, the Federal Executive Committee of the PSOE (a Spanish political party) decreed a general strike throughout Spain as a protest for he entry of certain ministers in the government. In Asturias most of the people were armed during the strike. During this fifteen day strike, the PSOE, UGT, CNT, PCE and BOC (socialist political parties) took power in the centre of the region making it a Revolutionary State. The Central Government sent the Legion and a number of Moorish orderlys to suffocate the revolutionaries. After hard quarrels, the miners decided to lay down their arms. The repression is evident in the deep mining valleys and 10000 people were imprisoned, tortured and finally executed.
In Asturias, the Civil War was really violent due to the rancor resulting from the revolution of October, 1934, after being the region with most number of deaths. Asturias resisted until the year 1937, the date in which the national soldiers occupied this region. Then, started a cruel repression in which 4000 people were executed and more than 30000 imprisoned, most of them miners.
In spite of all this, during the 1960`s, the Asturian miners lived trough good times of high productivity, but a big crisis started and the Asturian managers asked the Government for the nationalisation of their enterprises, since, the losses were many. The solution was the entering of the INI into the coal sector, founded on the 9th on March, 1967, Hulleras del Norte Sociedad Anónima (HUNOSA).
In 1980 the Government and HUNOSA reached an agreement to reduce the weight of mining in Asturias. Those days coincide with the following crisis in the naval and iron and steel industries. The situation went trough hard times and Asturias became the sixth Spanish region (in 1995) in per capita income. In 1985, Asturias was positioned at twenty first, with a rate of unemployment superior to the national average.
Industrial Archaeology in the Mining Valleys
The process of industrialisation in the mining valleys brought about an increase in the population of this area, at the same time as an increase in civil and industrial constructions. This resulted in spaces inhabited by unique elements such as little castles over the wells, factories, working buildings, etc…The industrial model of the Mining Valleys: coal, steam and steel brought a process of recovery in the area of industrial archaeology, setting an example for the whole country. The presence and success in the number of visitors to the MUMI and also the sign posting of industrial routes have favoured the underestimated patrimony, whose wealth exceeds expectation.
Both rivers, Nalón and Caudal can explain best the industrial and mining patrimony and the history of this region.
1) Samuño Valley: Ciaño- Traselcantu- Puente Carbón- mining population and fittings of La Nueva.
Duration, approx, 3 hours. Walking or by car.
2) Laviana: Entralgo – Canzana- Meruxalin- polygon of Satu.
Duration, approx, 3 hours. By walking.
3) Caudal Valley: Ujo- town of Bustiello- Moreda- Boo.
Duration, approx, 4 hours. It is advisable to do it by car.
4) San Martín del Rey Aurelio: El Entrego – MUMI- Campa l’Abeduriu.
Duration, approx, 5 hours. Advisable to do it by car.
5) El Entrego: Entrego Well- House of Nesprales – Socabón Mine- Lámpara Minera de Bédavo .
Duration, approx, 2 hours. Urban route.Texto: © Ramón Molleda para desdeasturias.com
Information of interestDirection:
C/ El Trabanquín, s/n.
33940, El Entrego
Contact telephone: 985 66 31 33
More information: The Mining and Industry Museum