OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Every Sunday, dirt roads throughout Baja beckon me. My trusty grandson, Gabriel and I find some of the most secluded, beautiful places in Baja…Allow us share our experiences with you each issue. If you have a great spot off the beaten path, let me know, we’d love to check it out and share.
.San Antonio; An Historic Mining Town Here in Baja
All over Baja on back roads, you may run into an old mine or two. There are generally dilapidated, abandoned and disintegrating. Sometimes there are pieces of old cast metal equipment with the fabricators names cast into the pieces. Names from France, England or Belgium… these finds are extremely interesting and they tell a story of yesteryear, in themselves.
One Sunday, Gabriel and I explored the town of San Antonio, located north of Los Barilles, between San Bartolo and El Triunfo on Highway 1. Driving at breakneck speed along Highway 1 and the town edges reveals nothing at first glance of this town´s rich in history, and the promise of a potential new heyday. So take some time, slow down and turn into the town center which is on the west side of the highway. The streets in center are fully cobble stoned and the colonial historic buildings speak to a richer past. If you continue straight on main street, the road turns to dirt and becomes progressively more difficult, as small chunks of rock and sand make up this roadway through the arroyo. Eventually, the road starts up a narrow mountain road, where within minutes, you will come to a multi-chambered smelting oven. The smelting facility is quite large, and as you can see from the photo, the multiple chambers travel up the hill in separate distinct ovens, some quite large, while others quite small; terminating with a flue at the very top of the hill. Take your time, walk around. The walls talk, as you can imagine the hundreds of workers that must have filled this once bustling smelter. Imagine the miners delivering the raw ore to this facility, and the shanty town that housed the miners nearby.
If you continue up this dirt road, there are the mine shafts and additional ruins to explore. (Do not enter any mine shaft, the stability is not guaranteed.) I am told that there are over 20 mine locations throughout the hills adjacent to San Antonio, and if you ask any native, they will surely let you know how to get to them.
Several local townspeople told me that some of the mines were actually operational up until 10 years ago, when the last company closed its doors. But what was also interesting, is that several Ejido told me, that that very day, on Sunday, in their community hall, the Ejido officials were meeting with an American/Canadian consortium and were getting ready to sign an agreement that would reopen mining operations in
San Antonio area. No one disclosed the names of the parties involved, but it was apparent to me, that this meeting held great hope for San Antonio, and the residents were quite pleased.
In the light of, the very recent agreements and international funding that has taking place in Santa Rosalia, far north of Mulege, I have no doubt that this meeting occurred. (Santa Rosalia, has a long rich history in mining too.) According to a recent press release, Baja Mining Corp. received the initial payment of approximately US$90 million from a Korean Consortium for their El Boleo Project on May 30th 2008. This mining operation expects to start mining copper in the first quarter of 2010, with mining of cobalt, magnesium and zinc to start immediately afterwards. Initial mining equipment has been ordered and underground mine development is expected to start in the first quarter of 2009. Surface mining equipment will start arriving on site in the third quarter of 2008 and will be available for construction of the surface infrastructure and tailings dam. The anticipated average annual production for the first four years at full operating capacity is scheduled to be 56,000 tons of copper cathodes, 1,500 tons of cobalt cathode and 20,000 tons of zinc sulphate. (Update, the Santa Rosalia Mine El Boleo is up and running again 2015)
So, good luck San Antonio! Baja needs some real industry to sustain its inhabitants and help them prosper!
Road Trip difficulty: Medium – 4 wheel drive not required, but SUV preferred.