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  HOME | Uruguay

Old Copper Mine Becomes Tourist Attraction in Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO – A long-abandoned copper mine in the southeastern Uruguayan province of Maldonado has become a tourist attraction that allows visitors to walk its tunnels and view unusual rock formations.

Mina La Oriental Park founder Lilian Ascorreta has been working since 2009 to restore the tunnels and enhance the old mine’s potential as an attraction.

Ascorreta, whose family has been connected to the 15-hectare (37-acre) property since the late 19th century, told EFE the mine’s history began in 1754, when Spanish colonists found copper in the area where the boundaries of today’s Maldonado and Lavalleja provinces meet.

After the era of Spanish production, a new venture was launched in the 19th century by an Argentine businessman, who named the mine La Oriental, Ascorreta said.

After a series of starts and failures by Uruguayans in the 20th century, Ascorreta’s father partially restored the crumbling mine entrance, rediscovering the stalactites in the tunnels.

As a result of a court case, the Ascorreta family regained ownership of the property in 2006.

In response to requests from visitors who wanted to explore the mine for its historical value, Ascorreta said she researched European experiences with “abandoned mine areas” and came up with the idea of creating a park.

Since 2013, La Oriental has been visited by groups of university students majoring in geology and biology who have studied the rock formations, which “date back about 1.5 billion years,” Ascorreta said.

 

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