The procedure to Declare Pozo Sotón a Site of Cultural Heritage in the Monument Category commenced on 1st February, 2013. The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage has included it among the most representative 100 industrial heritage elements in Spain.
Finally in 2014, several elements at the mine were declared Items of Cultural Interest in the category of Monument. The Declaration includes the following elements:
– The two towers (headframes).
– “RETER”, the structure surrounding both towers.
– Machine Room and Trade Union office.
The Sotón coal vein was discovered in 1792 when Charles IV sent the navy engineer Fernando Casado Torres to survey the Asturian basins in search of coal deposits. However, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century (between 1845 and 1865), when the Englishman, William Partington, co-founder of the first gas company in Madrid, claimed several of the sites with the intention of exploiting them in what would become the Santa Ana mines and, later, Grupo Sotón.
The Compañía Cantábrica de Santa Ana, founded by Partington and linked financially to Herrero y Compañía was the first business to mine the coal seams in the area. After its liquidation in 1867, its assets were sold to Sociedad Hullera de Santa Ana, a French company linked to the Herrero family. Years later, it became the property of the company Carbones de Santa Ana and, finally, in 1877, of Herrero Hnos. By that time, the Santa Ana mines were already using the Langreo-Gijón railway line to ship out the coal but, above all, they were supplying Duro y Compañía, which fired up its first furnace in the neighbouring municipality of Langreo in 1850.
Following the corporate restructuring of Duro in 1900 (Sociedad Metalúrgica Duro Felguera, SA or SMDF, thereafter), it embarked on a change in strategy towards a vertical structure, acquiring the Santa Ana mines in order to control the raw materials required for its furnaces. The need for more coal led Duro to take over other mining companies and to modernise the mines and transport systems.
Within this context, the Coal Mining areas underwent substantial developments in the 1920s as a result of which, the traditional mountain mining systems were replaced by vertical shaft mining, such as in the case of the Entrego and Sorriego collieries in San Martin del Rey Aurelio, or of Pozo Fondón, which was opened just two years before Sotón by SMDF in the neighbouring municipality of Langreo.
The preparation and digging of the shafts of Pozo Sotón took place between 1917 and 1922, requiring the course of the River Nalón to be redirected. Based on a decision by Duro, only local workers were employed in the construction work. In order to exploit and free the areas around the mine entrance, some of the older elements (pitheads) were used as auxiliary elements of the vertical shaft (as was the case of the Sallosa or Generala pitheads).
Throughout the twentieth century, Pozo Sotón underwent several extension projects and changes to increase its production capacity and efficiency, while always respecting the original design. Since 1967, Pozo Sotón belongs to the state company, Hulleras del Norte Sociedad Anónima (Hunosa).
Historical and Spatial Context of the Main Facilities at the Mine
The central and fundamental elements of the mine are the two metal towers made of formed and welded profiles and measuring 33 metres high; the RETER or metallic structure around the towers that houses the coal sorting area, which was assembled using rivets and welding; and the Machine Room and Trade Union offices, a brick building located opposite the towers and that is still an example of the buildings used by the Duro steel works in La Felguera. The latter houses the extraction machinery, the Siemens Koepe Pulley, which replaced the original devices, as well as the compressors.
The construction of these three elements can be traced back to the origins of the vertical pit, i.e. between 1917 and 1923, when Duro Felguera built the vertical shaft at Sotón, remaining as such, despite some necessary modifications and extensions, until today. These three elements underwent transformations and changes of varying intensity. The machinery room and Trade Union office were altered in 1954, when Duro Felguera, in a context of increasing investment through American funding, decided to enlarge them to increase compressed air production capacity. The lengthening of the building was due to the need to replace the original but obsolete compressed air generators. The extension of the building was designed with scrupulous respect for the identity of the property, maintaining the original style of the building despite being a model that proved quite unsuitable when compared with other simpler shed-shaped models. It was lengthened towards the south; consequently, the RETER and the towers were offset with respect to the position of the Machine Room.
Perhaps the element with the greatest formal and functional interest of this assembly, given its integrating function, is the so-called RETER or sorting area. This envelopes both towers, as we have already said, integrating them into a single volume and partly limiting their mechanical and formal independence. It’s structure has also been altered over time, as can be seen. The partial metallic walls we can see today did not exist originally; it was installed to protect the sorting area from the weather. The RETER sorted the coal using the force of gravity, before it fell into the hoppers located at ground level next to the company railway line, which no longer exists.
The configuration of the productive core based on the said three elements – Towers, Machine Room and Trade Union offices, and RETER- provided a smooth and concentrated work flow on the surface, reducing to the need for the proliferation of smaller constructions that might hinder the normal operation of the coal sorting and shipping facilities.