The best gem-quality sphalerites in the world were found at the Las Manforas mine, whose historical name is La Almanzora, although it is frequently referred as Aliva mine as well, because of the nearby mountain pass.
The mine is located in Picos de Europa, which are part of the Cantabrian Mountains situated in the North of Spain. This area belongs to the autonomous region of Cantabria; because its capital is Santander, the origin of Spanish sphalerites is also often cited as “Aliva mine, Santander, Spain”.
This part of Picos de Europa is known as Central massif, which has 38 peaks over 2,500 meters of altitude, the highest of which reaches 2,648 meters. The mine itself is 1,615 meters above the sea level. It can be accessed through a ground track from the village of Espinama (Cantabria) or through the Fuente De cable railway in summer.
To see the mine exact position in Picos de Europa mountains,
use the mouse to move the map and click to "+" button to make a zoom to the mine marked in green.
Click here to open the position of the deposit on Google Maps in a new window.
If you are Google Earth user, you can also download this file and fly directly to the mine.
The mine is situated in a highland climate. Picos de Europa is an area of abundant precipitations (about 3,000 mm/year, 20% of which falls as snow); a fact that is determined by its proximity to the sea (barely 20 kilometres). The humid air masses coming from the seacoast form clouds that often precipitates over the mountains. It is common to see dense fog at Picos de Europa.
The snow covers a big part of the mountains during the coldest months. The altitude of the mine 1,615 meters above sea level justify the presence of the snow for up to 6 - 7 months a year, a fact that makes the access to the mine by car very difficult in winter. The average annual temperature at the mine’s level is around 5°C.
Aliva mine location within the limits of the Picos de Europa national park (click to enlarge)
The mine was closed in 1989 and in 1995 the area of Picos de Europa was declared Natural Park (see oficial web site here). On the map above you can see the location of the Aliva mine within the limits of Picos de Europa National Park.
The entrance to the Aliva Mine, actually sealed with concrete, looking from the other side of the valley.