Minas de Río Tinto is a town in the province of Huelva, Andalusia, Spain in the Sierra Morena Mountains. It is situated 74 km from Huelva.
The mines of Rio Tinto (Tainted River) in southern Spain are located in part of the pyrite belt, an ore body that supplied the Phoenicians, Ancient Greeks, Carthaginians and the Roman Empire. Over 5000 years of mining has left a remarkable landscape of shafts, headgear, adits, extensive slag heaps, a railway, workers' housing, an English Colony and flooded open casts of blood red water.
In 1873 N M Rothschild and Sons of London and de Rothschild Frères of Paris joined with other investors to acquire the Spanish government's money-losing Rio Tinto mines which were much enlarged following the building in 1876 of a metre-gauge railway to Huelva, 80 km N, on the coast, which worked until 1974. The new owners restructured the company and turned it into a profitable business. By 1905, the Rothschild interest in Rio Tinto amounted to more than 30 percent.
In 1987 the Ministry of Culture (BOE No 265), created the Ríotinto Foundation for the History of Mining and metallurgy. This group is dedicated to the study and research on the history of mining and metallurgy; the social history of Minas de Rio Tinto, environmental remediation (acid mine drainage is a huge problem), the conservation of mining heritage.
A Mine Park has been set up including archaeological sites; assets of ethnographic interest as well as natural sites and gardens and parks that are relevant because of their historical, artistic or anthropological importance.
A number of mining and industrial installations are conserved such as pumping buildings, inclined plains, winch workshops, foundries and port-side docks. The rich railway heritage has been conserved which is comprised of sections of track, bridges, viaducts, tunnels, stations and a large number of steam locomotives and train carriages for the transport of passengers and minerals.
The Fundación Riotinto, starting with the Mining Museum, organises visits to all the sites in the mining theme park. A Geological Mining Research Centre is currently being created with local government and regional financial aid. With the input of the Fundación Riotinto, the aim is to safeguard and catalogue the extensive archives related to the Rio Tinto mining region and to produce interpretaive material for the Mine Park.
The film, El Corazón de la Tierra (the Heart of the Earth) released in 2007 was inspired by the novel of Juan Cobos Wilkins and covers the emergence of working class consciousness during the British period of management at Rio Tinto.