Luwish Santosh, Sales Representative in Aljustrel:
There are records of mining here dating back to the first century AD, during the Roman period. For over two thousand years, minerals have been extracted here. Some claim that this is one of the world’s earliest locations where gold was discovered. It used to be a major gold mining site.
Today, the primary minerals extracted here are copper and zinc, depending on market demands.
You mentioned that it is calm now, and that’s true. Machines and computers handle most of the work in the mines. Everything is automated, and miners simply guide the machines along the way.
In the past, life here was very bustling. You can imagine that the houses have hardly changed since the 1940s, except for additions made by the Swedish settlers in the 1970s. The beautiful houses in these streets are the homes of engineers and financial professionals, made of white-necked limestone. The rest of the miners lived in workers’ quarters. There is also a structure that used to house the police station, jail, and town hall. The desired connection existed. There was a lot of socializing and frequent gatherings. And there is still an active hospital.
Today, there are fewer accidents compared to the past, and workers operate in a more secure manner. There are networks of wooden and concrete supports, reducing hazards. In the past ten years, three people have died, one just last month. The main hazard is silica, the dust that causes lung disease and respiratory problems. Masks were not used in the past.
They believed in Santa Barbara. Inside the mine, there is a statue of her. She is the patron saint who protects miners worldwide. They used to throw money at her, believing that she would shield them from storms, falling rocks, and boulders. Even today, some people still believe in this.
Various beliefs were part of the miners’ folklore. They formed men’s fraternities, known as “Menahod,” through poetry. From there, Coral Choirs were formed, singing without musical accompaniment. This tradition continues in the area to this day. The choirs have a specific posture and wear attire that was previously called “Cope Suits,” with a copper medal related to mining. It was a source of pride to be part of it.
Only in recent years have women started working in the mines. In the past, it was forbidden for women to approach the mines as they were believed to bring bad luck. It’s not that there are many; out of 1,200 miners, only 5% are women. Even the wife of the council leader worked there.
It’s not an easy job; it requires shifts, and one cannot continue in it indefinitely. Around the age of fifty, people leave, and then they struggle to find something new to do in the remaining years. Statistically, miners have a shorter lifespan than the average person