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Batopilas, Chihuahua, Mexico
Although there were many mining centres located at the bottom of a ravine, none of them compared with the mineral wealth of the Batopilas ravine. The veins of La Bufa mine and Batopilas were renown worldwide, but as a result of the conflicts at the turn of the XX century the latter was practically abandoned. However its natural beauty and architecture can still be appreciated today. Batopilas is located in the southern part of the state of Chihuahua about 60 kilometres from Creel and at the end of a branch of the railway El Ferrocarril del Noroeste de Mexico, in a landscape of majestic mountains and deep ravine.

Luis Lyons Photo

Luis Lyons photo

The founding mine of the city is situated at a depth of 1800 metres at the bottom of the third deepest ravine in the Sierra Tarahumara. In order to get to it one has to descend a steep winding path from which there are continuous spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The town is located 500 metres above sea level. On arrival one can immediately feel the warm climate that permits the abundance of tropical vegetation of the region. Oranges, mangos, avocados and papayas intermingled with a bright array of bougainvilleas is truly a visual delight.
The town was founded in 1709 when the Urique Mine was discovered along with the first Centro de Autoridades Civiles Españolas (Centre for Spanish Civil Authorities) in the Baja Tarahumara region. It is the principal town of the district called Mineral de Batopilas and it is situated on the right banks of the river of the same name. The name Batopilas was given to the place by the natives of the area. The word means: compressed to a narrow channel in the impressive canyons.
The first miners to establish themselves in the region were Antonio Serrano and Cristóbal Rodríguez. This region had been famous since colonial times for the rich deposits of silver of San Antonio, El Carmen and Los Tajos mines. Its golden era however was in 1880, when the North American magnate Alexander R. Shepherd made significant investments in the mines, after he had acquired the majority of the funds that belonged to the Well, Fargo & Company. He became known as The Silver Magnate on account of the vast fortune he accrued from La Bufa mine. In 1887, the Compañia Minera Batopilas was created. This company built one of the greatest works of mining engineering of the epoch. They dug a subterranean tunnel that connected the deposits of the Rosenvalles and the Todos Santos areas. They also built La Hacienda de San Antonio that was an example of modern amenities in the Porfirian era. In 1873, it became the second town to have electricity in the country; Mexico was the first. In 1911, its prosperity ended. Now, the company Peñoles has begun work in a mineral deposit in Satevó, offering a breath of hope of a revival in the mining industry. The mineral is present in a series of veins of diorite or andesite, which have been invaded with granite of a very coarse texture. The majority of silver produced comes from the vein that runs from north to south. The amount of silver in the minerals derived from these veins is subordinate to polybasite, argentite, prousite, pyragyrite, pyrite, galena and small quantities of ambar coloured esfarelite. Over three centuries Batopilas has produced more than 50 million troy ounces of silver. The mines of Batopilas have been recognized for their beauty, their splendid variety of minerals with native silver and their crystals of ruby silver.