Slate has been used throughout the history of civilization. In the ancient world, slate was used as an aid for communication systems for hieroglyphic script and text and secondly as a building material. The Romans also used slate, for the roofs on their houses as well as for raw materials for their administrative and military buildings.
In areas where the material was accessible, it was use as a construction itself without transformation. Using slate as an important construction material evolved during the Middle Ages.
The first organised quarrying of slate dates back to the 12th century, in (France) and later in countries with cool, wet climates such as Germany, England and lreland. From the 13th century, you could get good quality regular slate which created an interest with builders and architects.
In Spain, slate from Segovia was used in the 16th century under the orders of Philip II, who wished to cover the roofs of emblematic buildings, such as the Monastery of San Lorenzo in El Escorial, with slabs of slate.
Photo : Monastry of San Lorenzo in El Escorial
In the mid 19th century, the opening of railways had an important effect on the industry which reached its peak at the beginning of the 20th century. lt was in the early 1900´s when industrial mining of slate began in Spain. In the 1950's, this activity began to expand. Since then, new companies have been created and consolidated, important investment has been made in factories and machinery, new exploitations have been opened arid adequate comercial channels have been established, thus permitting for the high production and sales figures to make Spain the worldwide leader in a few years.
Most workings are opencast, where large quarries are exploited by using heavy machinery and the lates extraction methods.
The aim of extraction work is to pull off large unaltered blocks of productive slate, which are then taken to the factories to be hewn. Nowaday, Spain is the number one slate producing country in the world, with an Export volumen than exceeds 80% of slate mined and produced in Galicia, the number one region in Spain for slate production.
The slate sector is one of the most important in the Northwest region of Spain because of the volumen of business, influx of foreign currency and most of all, because it gives jobs directly to more than 3,200 people and indirectly to 12,000 people.