Panasqueira Mine, Portugal – Say hello to the beautiful world of Panasqueira minerals!


Mining began in the district in 1898 but probably the Panasqueira mines (Portugal) were first worked for tin by the Romans and next by the Moors. In 1927 the mining concessions were taken over by Beralt Tin and Wolfram, Ltd. (a british company). Today Panasqueira is one of the biggests tungsten mines in the world and it is being operated by Sojitz Coorporation, a japanese company. The Panasqueira district have indeed several mines, known as Corga Seca, Barroca Grande, Panasqueira, Vale da Ermida and smaller ones. Some of them have closed many years ago like for example Val da Ermida, this last mine produced some of the best mineralogical examples of all Panasqueira district history.

The old Panasqueira Mines village in the 50's, some miners still live here but the majority of them has moved to Barroca Grande village, where the main mine entrance is nowadays.
The old Panasqueira Mines village in the 50’s, some miners still live here but the majority of them has moved to Barroca Grande village, where the main mine entrance is nowadays.
Panasqueira Mine
The above mentioned village today. Long time ago hundreds of people lived there now just a few. Behind the tree you can see the old cinema. Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.

The ore deposits of the Panasqueira district are the leading source of tungsten in western Europe. The Panasqueira district is located in the Beira Baixa province about 34 km west of the city of Fundao, Portugal.

Old entrance of the famous Panasqueira Mine, Portugal
Old mine entrance

At least since 70´s the Panasqueira Mines are known among mineral collectors for the beauty of the minerals found there. In my personal opinion Panasqueira has given many of the best apatites in the world, but this mine is not only about apatites, it has produced a exceptionally large suite of other minerals that they also rank as the very best for the species. However the ammount of fine crystallized different minerals you can find in just one specimen is what sets apart this locality.

apatite panasqueira mine portugal
Blue greenish apatite on siderite crystals from the famous Panasqueira Mine. Spanish Minerals specimen. Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.

Sadly, the way mining companies have been operating this deposit does not help protecting the mineral art these mountains hide. Furthermore miners can loose their jobs if they remove minerals from the mine. Nevertheless miners risk their positions taking out a few specimens just to earn a few more euros to compesate their low salaries. These conditions plus the lack of time end up in a shortage of minerals where most of them are severely damaged. The situation is so bad that trading of minerals from the mine or visiting old mine workings is an offence, this makes Panasqueira mineral collecting even harder now..

Purple apatite, Panasqueira Mine
Violet apatite with quartz. Panasqueira Mine, Portugal. Spanish Minerals specimen. Photo, Juan Fernandez Buelga.
Superb arsenopyrite with minor quartz, siderite and fluorite. Panasqueira Mine. Spanish Minerals specimen, Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.
Superb arsenopyrite with minor quartz, siderite and fluorite. Panasqueira Mine. Spanish Minerals specimen, Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.

Geology of the mining district

The surface geology of the Panasqueira district is restricted to the tightly folded vertically-dipping pelitic Beira Schist which suffered greenschist-grade, regional metamorphism during the early compressive stages of the Hercynian orogeny. Original lithologies were principally argillaceous to arenaceous shales, graywackes, and fine grained sandstones. Taken as a whole this sequence, which is widespread in Portugal, has been referred to as the Beira Schist complex.

Although no granite crops out in the district, a granite cupola (Panasqueira granite) has been identified at shallow depths in the Panasqueira mine and is at least spatially related to the mineralization. Pervasive hydrothermal alteration of the Panasqueira granite prevents its lithologic correlation with other intrusive facies of the Hercynian granitic complex exposed elsewhere in Portugal. However, from its undeformed condition and the fact that it utilized late (post-regional metamorphic) joints in its emplacement, the granite was clearly intruded after the main compressive stage of the Hercynian orogeny. Isotope studies suggest that the Panasqueira granite is an S-type granite.

Map of Portugal showing location of Panasqueira and the distribution of Hercynian granitic rocks
Map of Portugal showing location of Panasqueira and the distribution of Hercynian granitic rocks

Structure of mineralization

The prevailing horizontality of the Panasqueira veins is a feature of this district which sets it apart from other tin-tungsten deposits. The veins, which range in width from a few milimeters to more than a meter, cut across the altered granite cupola and steeply dipping Beira Schist thereby indicating the mineralization ocurred after emplacement and crystallization of the pluton.

panasqueira estructure 2
panasqueira estructure 1 Cross section of the Panasqueira cupola silica cap and cross-cutting flat veins.

Because the mineralization is open-space filling rather than replacement, this presents a special problem as to how the structures were initially dilated and then managed to remain open during the subsequent mineralization. Evidence suggests that the flat vein openings were created and supported by hydraulic pressures of the early tin-tungsten vein fluids (fluid pressures exceeded lithostatic pressures).

Mineralogy of the veins

Over fifty mineral species have been described from the Panasqueira deposits. Due to the coarse-grained nature of the minerals, the Panasqueira deposits have been known for their good mineral collecting. Although there is a rather complex paragenesis, the mineralogy is uniform laterally, composed dominantly of quartz. with lesser amounts of muscovite, topaz, tourmaline, carbonates, apatite, wolframite, cassiterite, and sulfides.

Green quartz from Panasqueira Mine
Sometimes small pockets with mineral rarities come up like this green – bluish quartz with brown calcite from the Panasqueira Mine. Spanish Minerals specimen, Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.

Vein paragenesis and alteration

The paragenesis is fairly complex because several minerals, including quartz, muscovite, and pyrite, were long-lived in the sequence and were precipitated in a repetitive manner. In spite of these complexities, four main stages of mineralization have been recognized and described: (1) the oxide-silicate stage, (2) the main sulfide stage, (3) pyrrhotite alteration stage, and (4) late carbonate stage. Economically, the first stage was by far the most important, because it includes the ore minerals cassiterite and wolframite.

Ferberita Panasqueira. Artículo
Superb ferberite with marcasite. Panasqueira Mine. Fernandez Buelga Mineral Collection specimen. Juan Fernandez Buelga photo
Green apatite, Panasqueira Mine, Portugal
Green apatite, Panasqueira Mine, Portugal

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This specimen is one of the most aesthetically appealing apatites included by greenish schorl I have ever seen. The tourmaline acicular crystals have crystallized around the bases and inside of the glowing apatites. I like the stark contrast between the green inlcuded ones (near the thin rock matrix) against the big incolore one, which is far from the green schorl crystals so not included by them. Spanish Minerals specimen, Juan Fernandez Buelga photo.

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