Hipasam Iron Mine

Minera Sierra Grande

Useful Information

Location: Sierra Grande.
(-41.672826, -65.368897)
Classification: MineIron Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=96 km, VR=500m
Guided tours: L=3 km, VR=100m
Address: Hipasam Iron Mine.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1944 deposit discovered.
1969 mine opened.
1991 mine closed.
1994 mine opened as a show mine.
2006 mine re-activated by Chinese capital investment.


At its peak produced two million tonnes of iron ore per year, as well as lead, flourite, mica and magnesium. The deposit is an oolitic magnetite and hematite iron formation that occurs within the Silurian Sierra Grande Formation. It is 3.2 km long, 5 m to 15 m wide and up to 1,100 m deep.


The Hipasam Iron Mine is said to be the largest of its kind in South America, nevertheless it was unprofitable and closed in 1991. When the mine opened in 1969 the population of the nearby town Sierra Grande increased form 500 to 12,000 inhabitants. The mine is named after Hierro Patagónico de Sierra Grande Sociedad Anónima Minera (Hipasam SA), the state owned company which mined the iron and provided 1,200 jobs. With the mine as the biggest employer the town had massive economic problems after its closing. The tourist mine offered at least 30 new jobs. Nevertheless, the locals hoped it would reopen, probably with foreign investors. The mine has an estimated 200 years of reserves. It was reopened in 2006 by Chinese capital investment and is operated by MCC Minera Sierra Grande (MSG). It was renamed Minera Sierra Grande.

In the mine Women were banned from entering. According to a local tradition, Mother Earth could become jealous and cause cave-ins. A female geologist had to disguise herself as a man in order to descend into the mine. Obviously the legend is not true, as today most of the visitors are women and nothing happens.

There are two tours in the mine. The normal tour is 3 km long and descends 100 m. It is done either by foot or on bicycles. The tour ends in the Miner’s Museum. The adventure tour goes deeper into flooded areas of the mine, and includes a ride on a raft dubbed by the miners “La Dudosa” (the Dubious One).

The Miner’s Museum contains tools like hammers, mining drills, and explosive devices. There is an exhibition of photos and documents from Hipasam’s boom period. The tourists are invited to try on miner’s clothing, boots and lantern helmets. Also, the strong belief of the miners in Saint Barbara is explained.