Huge ancient goldmine discovered in Spain

Old gold Roman coin

Towards the end of last year, remote sensing technology (LiDAR) and aerial mapping discovered a forgotten Roman goldmine in Spain.

An amazing discovery

University of Salamanca researchers were the ones who found the 2,000 year old mine, using the latest LiDAR and aerial mapping technology. The goldmine complex has been named Las Medulas, and it features advanced hydraulic works that are believed to have been used to move water to the site.

The mine is located in Leon and was probably the biggest open-pit goldmine in the Roman Empire. A geologist at the University of Salamanca, Javier Fernández Lozano, said the works that were performed in the goldmine are impressive, because the Romans achieved river captures. Lozano also said that the work put into mining the gold (until it was depleted) was so intensive "that after removing the gold from surface sediments, operations continued" until they reached rocks with auriferous quartz veins beneath them.

Surprisingly, it is highly unlikely that the site would have been found if they hadn't used LiDAR technology - something that is commonly used in mining projects today. The university intends to continue using this technology (along with aerial mapping) to find out more about Roman mining and the mysteries that surround it - including hopefully to find out why the Romans stopped mining gold.

Roman gold mining techniques

In Roman times, Spain was extensively mined; the landscape of the Las Medulas area was actually formed by the Romans' mining techniques. These techniques (known as ruina montium) involved excavating narrow cavities into mountains, then filling these cavities with water, resulting in pressure that was strong enough to fragment rock walls.

The researchers estimate that the Romans extracted around 1.65 million kg of gold over the 250 years the mine was active.

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