Members of the Spanish Speleology Association during an investigation / SUR

La Araña cement factory rejects blasting of cave claims

"At no time since the discovery of the cave has our company planned to carry out any blasting in the area where it is located," says the FYM-Heidelberg company

Francisco Griñán
FRANCISCO GRIÑÁN Malaga

The beauty of the Araña karst massif limestone caves has attracted a great deal of geological attention since its discovery a year ago. Located in the quarry of the FYM-Heidelberg cement factory, the spectacular nature of the cave led to the intervention of the administration, which launched the first reports to determine its value and guarantee the protection of the cave.

The integrity of the report has been questioned by specialised groups and the early conclusions of the report carried out by a team led by Juan José Durán Valseró, professor and director of the Geological Resources Research Department of the Spanish Geological and Mining Institute (IGME), and the complaint to the Environmental Prosecutor's Office by the Spanish Association of Speleology for a possible authorisation by the regional government, the Junta de Andalucía, for the destruction of the cave. This demolition plan was categorically denied on Monday by the cement company and by the regional government itself.

Mining prohibited

"At no time since the discovery of the cave has our company planned to carry out any blasting in the area where it is located," says the FYM-Heidelberg factory, which also adds that the company "has no record of any resolution issued by any competent administration of the Junta de Andalucía on the resumption of mining activity" in the cave. This was confirmed by the government delegation in Malaga, which, in statements to SUR on Monday 12 September, denied any authorisation or resolution on the cave, while stressing that the activity "is still prohibited in the area".

Although it was initially reported that the study led by professor Durán Valseró, with the support of Iñaki Vadillo Pérez, from the Department of Ecology and Geology at the University of Malaga (UMA), and José Enrique Sánchez, president of the Spanish Speleology Association, was an independent work, FYM-Heidelberg has insisted that this research was "commissioned" by the company itself by the director of the IGME's Geological Resources Research Department "on a completely voluntary basis and without any requirement from any administration" and was put together in an agreement signed on 1 April.

Stegamites

According to the owners of the cave, they have had "no interference" in the drafting of the report and assure that the researchers have had total "freedom" of movement, accessing the cave 178 times in the 38 days of work carried out. According to the study carried out by the team of geologists and scientists, the cave preserves an unusual variety of formations, among which the stegamites stand out, structures that have only been documented in three other caves on the planet, which has been considered by these experts as a geological landmark of "singularity and world exceptionality".

The company does not include an assessment of the importance of the cave in its report and says it regrets that, despite being behind the commission, FYM-Heidelberg "has learned of the results of the study through its publication in the media". In addition, the La Araña factory has responded in no uncertain terms to the document presented to the Environmental Prosecutor's Office by the Spanish Speleology Association, by rejecting the complaint made and describing its content as an "unfounded warning", while accusing the complainant of making "extremely serious false and slanderous accusations".

The communiqué is completed with FYM's intention to "continue collaborating" with the Junta de Andalucía, while at the same time it says it is open to carrying out any studies deemed appropriate "until the importance of the cave's contents is determined". Professor Juan José Durán Valsero and his team will be giving a conference at 7pm this evening (Monday 12 September) at the UMA's Rectorate to present the results of the research carried out over the last few months.