Guided excursions to open-air mining areas and visits to the main construction sites in Rio Marina and Rio Albano: Bacino, Valle Giove, Falcacci and Conche.
Mining Area Bacino
This area, together with that of Vigneria, was the first mining area to be exploited, as evidenced by important archaeological finds.The beginning of its mining activity dates back to the Etruscan and Roman periods: the current aspect of the construction area is, at least in part, the result of ancient cultivation concentrated in the lower part of the mining area.
The remains of these ancient mining activities formed large heaps, which were cultivated between the 19th and early 20th centuries, since they still contained a high concentration of iron minerals.In more recent times, the mining activity continued from 1860 to 1977, although with the opening of the upper yards in the last century, the Cantiere Bacino, due to its position, served almost exclusively for the washing of the mineral and for the accumulation of treated mineral.Hematite is the predominant iron ore and here it comes in different forms: more or less compact microcrystalline masses, flaky and lamellar aggregates, groups of beautiful crystals sometimes associated with quartz.
Another peculiar feature of the Rio Marina hematite crystals is their iridescence, due to the presence of thin films of alteration of iron hydroxides (goethite). In this regard, the valuable samples found have made the Cantiere Bacino famous to collectors from all over the world and can also be observed in the most important Mineralogy Museums.Another mineral worthy of note is pyrite which can be found here with various crystalline effects.
Valle Giove mining area
The work on this area, the largest and most recent of the entire mining area, began in 1950 and ended in 1981 in conjunction with the closure of the mines on the Island of Elba. This large amphitheater, with its imposing 10 m high steps, extends from 100 to 200 m above sea level and represents a perfect example of open-air cultivation, as shown by the various levels of excavation. At the center of the mining area, with a gray color, you can see the imposing mineralization consisting mainly of hematite.The mining area
is dominated by Monte Giove (351 m) on the top of which are the ruins of the ancient fortress built by Giacomo III degli Appiani in 1459 to defend against the incursions of the Saracens.Today only the ruins of a tower, a drawbridge, a wall and the defense moat remain, which dominate the mining area from above.
The ore extracted was mainly hematite, although, from a collector’s point of view, the mining area became famous for the discovery of splendid pyrite crystals.
In the years following its opening, in fact, this area produced by far the best specimens of pyrite on hematite ever found on Elba: according to some scholars, the association of pyrite crystals on a hematitic matrix is unique to Elba and, for this reason, the samples extracted from Valle Giove, in addition to representing a “classic” of collecting, are also to be considered the best in the world for this type.
In recent years samples with these characteristics have been found thanks to the realization of some scientific excavations.
The mining is located south-west of the Valle Giove and was cultivated from the early 1800s until 1960.
The main minerals extracted were hematite and limonite, accessories include blende, malachite, galena, bismuthinite.
From a collector’s point of view, the area became famous for the cubic pyrite samples. Today the Falcacci mining area is back in the limelight for the discovery in 2005 of a new mineralogical species, the Riomarinaite from the name of Rio Marina.
The Bacino, Valle Giove and Falcacci shipyards are part of the Rio Marina field.
The mining area was cultivated from 1940 to 1970 both in open air and in tunnels, the main minerals extracted were limonite and hematite, the accessory minerals pyrite and siderite. Inside the deep open pit excavation, bounded to the east by a quartzite wall and to the west by dolomitic limestone, a red-brown lake with violet reflections has formed, whose waters are extremely rich in iron salts .
The area is part of the Rio Albano.
Rio Marina Mine
The Rio Marina mine is the oldest and most important on the island of Elba, as well as being the most intensively and continually exploited over the centuries.
The surface of the mine is about 1.5 km north to south, and about 1.2 km east to west, giving a total surface area of around 2 km2.
The area is situated between two natural watersheds, the larger and deeper of these being in the Riale valley, and the shorter but steeper in the Giove valley.
The main mining areas are located in the north and north-west of the island (as can be seen on the geological mining map) and range from sea level up to an altitude of about 200m. All the rocks belonging to this area are sedimentary and metamorphic.
The mining of iron began in the Etruscan era and ended in the 1980s when the IRI decided to proceed with the closure of the island’s iron mines.
In addition to the mining industry, the Rio Marina mining areas were important for mineral collectors from all over the world, due to the valuable pyrite and hematite crystals found over the years.