Reportage / Documentary

Rio Tinto Copper Mines

Copper is becoming a highly prized metal, especially for the manufacture of renewable energy installations and batteries, which is why large global companies are becoming interested in the most important deposits, such as the one in Huelva, managed by Atalaya Mining.

Furthermore, according to experts, the way the extraction of this copper is being managed, there is a high probability that the ponds where the waste is deposited will break, spilling a quantity of toxic material that would greatly damage the ecosystem in which they are located.

Thus, this project raises the question of whether the fact that it would be beneficial in economic terms for an area as hard hit by unemployment as Huelva (Andalusia), compensates for the possible enormous environmental damage and ecological disaster that could be caused by the rupture of one of these reservoirs.

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Metal extraction at the mine has resumed with a huge volume of work after several years of closure. This has been due to increased interest in copper for use in electric batteries and new technologies linked to new forms of energy.
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Copper mining at the mine came to a halt during the second half of the 20th century due to the fall in copper prices, which also led to a significant exodus of the population.
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Copper mining is currently being carried out by the Cypriot company Atalaya Mining in the so-called Riotinto Project.
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It currently holds more than 1.78 million tonnes of copper, 1.18 million tonnes of zinc, 97,000 tonnes of lead, 61.9 million ounces of silver and 0.83 million ounces of gold yet to be mined.
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Despite the great benefits of the project, many scientists and environmental groups warn of the potential environmental damage of copper mining in the area.
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One of the main problems is the management of waste generated by copper mining.
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Aerial view of the various reservoirs where much of the waste generated by copper mining accumulates.
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For the disposal of copper mining waste, these ponds are used with water to dilute and filter it into the subsoil.
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View of the Gossan reservoir, with plant formations petrified by copper waste.
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Soil of part of one of the ponds in the area dried out due to the high temperatures.
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Aerial view of the Aguzadera reservoir, one of the largest in the area, which has been used to store many tonnes of toxic waste from copper mining.
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Scientists and NGOs in the area denounce that the excess water in the ponds to filter the waste more quickly could cause them to break, causing 34,716 cubic metres per second of toxic waste and destroying a large part of the area's ecosystem.
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Scientists and NGOs in the area denounce that the excess water in the ponds to filter the waste more quickly could cause them to break, causing 34,716 cubic metres per second of toxic waste and destroying a large part of the area's ecosystem.
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Aerial view of the current part of the copper mine being exploited. This mine is located barely two kilometres from the town of Minas de Riotinto.
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On the other hand, the economic benefits for the company and the region are very large. Due to the spectacular scenery, it has also become a tourist attraction. In the picture, Corta Atalaya, a former mining site converted into a tourist attraction.
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Many visitors come every day to see the spectacular mines of Minas de Riotinto.
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A museum about the history of the village and the various mines in the area attracts visitors who come especially to learn more about this picturesque area.
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It is an interactive museum, where the history of mining in the area and its different phases are explained.
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The old train in which the materials were transported has even been restored and the route allows visitors to see the different key points of the area in terms of mining extraction





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