One of the mines that accounted for two-thirds of the world’s silver production at its height is the mine La Valenciana located on the northern edge of the city of Guanajuato (Mexico). The mine began operation in 1774. From then until the early 19th century it was one of the most productive silver mines in the world. It produced 80% of all silver mined in the state of Guanajuato, and one-sixth of all Mexico. For over 250 years, it produced about 30% of the world’s silver. The mine continues operation today. Production is much diminished, but one ton of rock is still extracted every six minutes. The largest shaft descends for 450 meters and about 10,000 miners have worked it over its history.
The mine made its owners, the Counts of Valenciana, extremely wealthy and powerful. The first Count of Valenciana, Antonio de Obregón y Alcocer had the San Cayetano Church, also known as the La Valenciana Church built near the entrance of this mine. Near the Valenciana Mine is the Guadalupe Mine, established in the 16th century. This complex was built with extremely large and thick stone walls supported by buttresses, giving it the look of a medieval fortress. The mine itself is no longer in operation but the complex has been undergoing redevelopment as a resort with a hotel, spa, golf course and more.
The first significant mine was called San Barnabe, which brought thousands of adventurers to Guanajuato and lead to the discovery of other mineral deposits. This mine functioned from the 16th century until 1928. The remains of this mine can still be found in the small village of La Luz just outside the city.
The Cata mine is one of the early mines, and a city neighbourhood is named after it. The mine is near the Don Quijote Plaza. It began operations in 1558 with peak production in the first quarter of the 18th century. It was owned by the Marquis of San Clemente.
The Bocamina de San Ramón mine is one of the city’s early mines, with the deposit found by some travelers in the early 16th century. In 1548, its mother lode was found. Today, the mine is a tourist attraction in which visitors can descend into the earth through the old shafts. The complex also has a patio area, a gallery of minerals and a bar called El Petardo, which once was the gunpowder storage room.
The Rayas mine gave rise to one of the city’s original neighbourhoods‘, after having been found in 1550 by Juan Rayas. The mine’s apogee occurred in the 18th century, giving its owner, José de Sardineta y Legaspi the titles of Viscount of Sardineta and Marquis of Rayas. Today it is found on a section of the Carretera Panorámica (Panoramic Highway) that circles the city. The complex walls are tall and are held up by stone buttresses. It has one of the longest mine shafts in the world, which extends into the earth for 425 meters.
The city of Guanajuato was the result of the discovery of this mines in the mountains that surround it. These mines were so rich that the city was one of the most influential during the colonial period.