Rio Maior Lignite and Diatomite Mines
Last Updated: 11th Apr 2013
Rio Maior lignite mines and lignite briquette plant
One of the buildings of Rio Maior that can be seen from several miles away is the chimney of the Espadanal mines. This chimney belonged to the existing power plant in the industrial area surrounding the mine.
The first records of coal mined in Rio Maior which have reached us date back to 1915 and its low-intensive operation occurred until the beginning of the 2nd world war. Due to lack of fuel there was a burial site that was hailed as national reserve and began an intensive exploitation of which led to huge investments.
Between 1921 and 1923 the Mines of Tripoli (as they were known) were explored by D. Vasco Brandão and Dr. Domingos Pamplona. Later the mines were explored by a British company and then by EICEL which explored the mines until the sixties. In that decade the mine was closed and all its estates were removed or vandalized.
In the golden age of the mines they employed over 1500 people and even got a private connection by rail to Vale de Santarém. The rail quay was located where now stands the multipurpose pavilion of Rio Maior; the main reason for the rail link was the very poor conditions of the surrounding roads.
The main activities of the company which operated the mining center were the coal industry and electricity production.
In addition to the large surrounding structures, the briquette factory, power plant and the mine entrance, the company operated on 3 distinct fronts:
Espadanal - this center built around the main shaft with administrative, social services, warehouses, offices and others. These buildings were demolished in 1999 to give place to a residential area.
Bogalhos - in this center there were the pumping system to drain the galleries, the original power station and workers facilitys. Today only traces of the power plant remain.
Abum - the deposit consisted mainly of lignite, but also by layers of diatomite. For the extraction of the diatomite (commonly known as chalk) the company created a nucleus in this center for extraction and processing of ore. Currently the buildings were demolished and the mine’s space turned into local shipyards.
The briquette factory was used until recently as a municipal shipyard and now presents an appearance of abandonment with a very sharp breakdown of all buildings. Currently there are only two intact sections of the mine which are the entrance towards the briquette factory and another interior section. These sections have resisted because the domes are stone made but all the other sections secured by wooden logs have collapsed.
Out of curiosity deeper galleries were about 60 meters deep and the chimney of the power plant is about 70 feet tall. Although the chimney has polyhedral shape its round interior was built with refractory bricks.
The power plant consumed about half of the mined coal.
The briquettes produced were 'parallel' coal-pressed without the use of chemicals that were later used in stoves and heating systems for individuals.
We should not forget that during the decades of 40 and 50 came many people from other parts of the country to work in these mines and most of them and their families finally got to live here and whose descendants are now part of the locals.
- a special thanks to rio-maior-cidadania.blogspot.com´s author.
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