(Mines of Nurra)
The Argentiera mine is simple to be reached. The mining site is 40 Km far from Sassari. If you take the road leading from Sassari to Alghero, you will find all the road marks you need. At the end of the road you will find yourself right in the square of the village. Now few people lives in it, but in the past its population reached 2.000.
The photo shows an ancient shaft going up a previous phase than that started in the XIX century. It is a very ancient shaft, how the stone covering demonstrates. However, it has been used in more recent years, how the conduits remains (water and compressed air) inside it testify.
Unluckily, many people have mistaken this site (and all the old area of the Argentiera mine) for a dumping, and this fact accentuates the abandon and deterioration of the place.
The Podestá Shaft (how all at Argentiera) is easy to be reached: when you have arrived at the little square at the end of the road from Sassari, take the "Pozzo Podestá Street" and follow it until the shaft will be visible.
When the ore was no more reachable whit tunnel digged under the hillside, the company began the construction of the main mining shaft. It was called Pozzo Podestá from the name of the baron Andrea Podestá, chairman of the Societá Correboi, the owner company of the mine.
In the years following 1890, the first level under the sea level (- 5 level) was begun starting from the Podestá Shaft. The shaft connected the underground with the outside. Several levels started along this, all equipped with tracks. The trolleys was pushed by man or drawn by mules. The extracted stuff was taken to the dressing plant or to the dumps.
The first photo shows what remains of the elevator's frame; the second the serious deterioration of the plant.
Along the road (now named "Miniera Vecchia" (= Old Mine), because the first works began in this area) you can see the entrances of the Rietto and Calabronis Tunnels. The second, though very old, was used until the closing of the mine.
Upper is possibile to see some digs in the open sky, where the vein outcrops.
The wonderful wood made dressing plant is near the sea, almost inserted in the village. It can be visited only from outside.
The mineral that come out from mine is generally mingled with raw stuff. Separating it from the raw stuff is needed to make it tradable. That is, it needs to dress it.
During the first years of the mine women and children sorted out the mineral by hands in the outside. That is, they manually chose in the heap the blocks of rich mineral to be sorted out.
At the end of the XIX century the dressing plant of Argentiera had a very simple structure. The mineral was sorted out exclusively by "wash". The process used the specific gravity difference between minerals and tailings (waste).
The dressing plant processed up to 45 tonnes of crude at a day, and yielded near 18 tonnes of mineral. The mineral was charged into sailing boat that moored in the San Nicola beach, and then transported to Porto Conte. Here it was shipped into boats bounded for the ports of the North Europe. The corse waste from the dressing process was put in dump, instead the mud was let off right into the sea.
A modern floatation plant was built at the end of the Twenties of the XX century. It started to work only in 1936.
A new mining shaft was built in the north-east sector of the mine, the Alda Shaft. It needed to follow some rich mineralizations that were already mined by the Ancients.
When the mine was closed (1963) the depth of the Podestá Shaft went down until - 220 level. Here started the Umberto Shaft (completely underground) that went down until - 365 level. In - 220 level a tunnel connected Podestà Shaft with Alda Shaft.
Unfortunately the condition of the structures is very bad, and nothing is left of the machineries. However, an unique and fascinating ambience remains that is interesting to be experienced.
Of course, in the surroundings of Argentiera you can have some walkings that will lead you to places like that the two photos show.
Text and photos by Alessandro Usai. Translation by Sandro Arcais.
IGM map: 458, IV
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