The diamond mine that failed to shine

There was great secrecy about the mine and high security at Los Jarales.
There was great secrecy about the mine and high security at Los Jarales. / SUR
  • Half a century later, there is very little information about the operation to extract these precious stones in Los Jarales area, close to the village of Carratraca

Carratraca, which is situated in the Guadalteba valley but is very close to the Sierra de las Nieves, is a very geodiverse area and this has not gone unnoticed over the centuries. In fact, on the eastern side of the Sierra de Alcaparaín and in the Sierra de Aguas, minerals such as chrome and nickel used to be mined for industrial purposes. What still comes as a surprise to many today, however, including people who live in this village, is that there are possibly diamonds in that area. This is not a legend, but it is true that there is a certain mystery about this remarkable tale.

Today there is evidence that at least one mine was built to extract diamonds in the area known as Los Jarales, between 1966 and 1970. According to data collated by geologist Juan Carlos Romero, it was owned by the Real Compañía Asturiana de Minas, and was located at the foot of the Sierra de Alcaparaín, in other words right opposite the village of Carratraca.

Despite its location beside one of the most important chrome-nickel mines in the history of Spain, hardly any information exists about the diamond mining which was carried out here, not even half a century afterwards.

Apart from a few documents, the most evident proof that the mine existed is the fact that today there is still a pool where the precious stones would have been cleaned, at the point where the streams known as El Moro and Los Pinos converge.

It is almost certain that this mine was abandoned in 1970 because it wasn't profitable. Romero says that earlier studies suggest that only diamond dust was taken from there, in sizes less than one millimetre. Also, unlike other diamond mines, the precious stone here was in its natural state with peridotites, which meant that in order to obtain the diamond it first had to be crushed and separated. At the time, the Real Compañía Asturiana de Minas - which was mainly funded by Belgian capital - gave no information about the results of this mine. In fact, during the years that the extraction took place there was a great deal of secrecy and extremely strict security at the site.

The only data about that operation is from the file on what is known as the 'Teyma concession'. This lack of transparency has even led some to an interesting hypothesis. As Juan Carlos Romero explains, "it could have been a smokescreen by Franco to attract foreign capital".

Earlier studies

The most likely answer, however, is that it was justnot profitable to extract such small quantities of diamonds in those conditions. The lack of water in that area also created difficulties. There was earlier information about the existence of diamonds there, from a study carried out in 1919 by geologists Domingo de Orueta y Duarte and Enrique Rubio. Their report was published in 1927, a year after Orueta y Duarte's death. It gives minute details of their findings in Los Jarales area, but these were very small, often less than one millimetre. This report was certainly carried out because earlier, in 1889, a German doctor named Knop claimed that he had found diamonds there which were one centimetre in size.