HomeLIFESTYLENazis and allies mining tungsten in Arouca

Nazis and allies mining tungsten in Arouca

It is highly unlikely that either Adolf Hitler or Winston Churchill even knew of the existence of the Mines of Regoufe or Mines of Rio de Frades. But the truth is that these two mining complexes were exploited, during World War II, by the British and Germans. Enemies on the battlefields of Europe, but who lived in absolute peace around Arouca.

The reason for this coexistence is very simple and goes by the name of tungsten, an essential ore for the war effort of the Nazis and allies and which was abundant in Portugal. The Estado Novo, in the hot years of Oliveira Salazar, saw a golden opportunity there and did not mind that the two parties in conflict came to our country to get supplies. For the right price, of course.

regoufe mines: the english company

Wolfram, or tungsten, was essential for the production of weapons, namely for artillery howitzers and grenades. Hence, the existing mines in Portugal were almost entirely controlled by foreign companies. At the time, what became known as the ‘wolfram rush’ was unleashed, with some fortunes arising overnight, such were the profits from the activity.

This mineral ended up losing its importance, but the mining areas, such as the Mines of Regoufe, are still there and even in ruins are starting to be the target of renewed tourist interest. A walk full of history through the mountain ranges of Arouca.

With Europe buffeted by a war that would significantly devastate the entire continent, the belligerent parties set out in search of raw materials that would allow them to continue producing weapons in sufficient quantity. This is where the Mines of Regoufe and their so-called ‘black gold’, wolfram, come in.

Poça da Caldela

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the region has been identified for its potential in terms of ore, with the first exploration license dating back to 1915, handed over to a Frenchman named Gustave Thomas. It was already in 1941 that the Companhia Portuguesa de Minas was formed in Regoufe, which, due to its capital and administration essentially British people became known as the English Company.

For those who visit Minas de Regoufe, the central point will always be Poça da Caldela. This is the concession that was most profitable, with numerous galleries and heaps scattered throughout the region. It is advisable to bring comfortable shoes, water and, in summer, sunscreen.

The granite ruins are still embedded in the mountains and despite being abandoned, they are surprising witnesses of a past full of people and work. The silence around makes the space even more fantastic.

the core of mining complex appears in a kind of amphitheater, perfectly organized so that the relationship between work and common spaces was as close as possible.

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the complex

On the north and northeast sides, the technical and administrative facilities are concentrated, highlighting the two-story building where the offices operated, which dominated a kind of square or upper square. The washing facilities, a succession of tanks and machinery arranged on the slope, are practically the last of the complex, to the southwest.

On the opposite side, to the east, most of the constructions were residential in nature, especially the neighborhood of small compartments that constituted the houses of the miners.

rio de frades mines: the german company

Ruins of the Mine of Rio de Frades

Close by, in what is now the Union of Parishes of Albergaria da Serra e Cabreiros, another mine rich in wolfram rivaled the Mines of Regoufe, not only in terms of ore extraction, but also in terms of who exploited it.

It is true, side by side with the English, Nazi Germany equipped itself with tungsten in the mines of Rio de Frades. In a process that was completely identical to the Minas de Regoufe, in 1923 the Companhia Mineira do Norte de Portugal was set up, mostly with Teutonic capital and administration. Yep, you guessed it, it became known as the German Company.

The period of greatest activity in this mining complex was in 1941, during the rise of the Nazi regime, with the German management providing several improvements to the site, namely in social terms.

three cores

The ruins of the explorations and mining facilities of Frades are spread over three main nuclei, which can, and should, be explored on foot. These three areas highlighted are the traditional village with shale houses, the Bairro de Cima, a group of former residences of the technical and administrative staff of the mines, some of which are still occupied today, and the main nucleus of the mine work area, located at the bottom of the valley.

While there, take the opportunity to cross the Vale de Cerdeira gallery, about 400 meters long and considered the most productive in the glorious times of wolfram, and at the end you will come across the beautiful waterfall of the tributary stream of the Rio de Frades , a river of choice for the practice of extreme water sports.

Both the Mines of Regoufe and the Mines of Rio de Frades are part of the territory of the Arouca Geopark, where it is possible to access absolutely stunning landscapes, full of history and charm. And if your stay is longer, don’t forget to visit the famous Passadiços do Paiva.

Rio de Frades waterfall

peaceful coexistence

The truth is that the English and Germans never clashed there on the sides of Arouca, coexisting peacefully, in absolute contrast to what happened on the bloody battlefields of Europe.

It is said that the English didn’t even need tungsten much. They just didn’t want the Germans to get their hands on it. However, with the end of the war, and the defeat of the Germans, tungsten began to lose importance, with mining in the region being interrupted in the mid-1970s.

This is a good opportunity to get to know a little of the history that lived there, and which is witnessed by the carcasses of buildings and equipment that still escaped the erosion of time.

It is also an excellent opportunity, and a beautiful setting, for the family to experience an interesting history lesson on what was the most dramatic and bloody moment of the entire 20th century. To not lose.

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