Grotta di Santa Barbara

Miniera di San Giovanni

Useful Information

Location: From Iglesias SS126 to Bindua, turn left, follow main road to the other side of the village.
Open: by reservation only.
Fee: Adults EUR 15, Children (6-12) EUR 12, Seniors (65+) EUR 12.
Groups (15+): Adults EUR 13, School Pupils EUR 12.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave SpeleologyGeode
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=16-18 °C.
Guided tours: D=90 min. Italiano - Italian English
Photography: photography allowed, video only with written authorization from the Municipality of Iglesias
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Mauro Messina, Angelo Naseddu, Silvestro Papinuto, Franco Sanna, Silviana Sotgia, Paolo Forti, Jo De Waele (2005): Le esplorazioni speleologiche della miniera di San Giovanni: prime sintesi LE GROTTE DI MINIERA, Tra economia mineraria ed economia turistica, Istituto Italiano di Speleologia - Memoria XVII, s.II, pp. 69-86 online
Paolo Forti, Antonio Pagliara, Ermanno Galli, Antonio Rossi, Jo De Waele, Angelo Naseddu, Silvestro Papinuto (2005): Studio morfologico e mineralogico di dettaglio del concrezionamento del sistema carsico di Santa Barbara (Miniera di San Giovanni, Iglesias) Memorie dell'Istituto Italiano di Speleologia. 17. 57-68.
Jo De Waele, Paolo Forti, Angelo Naseddu (2017): Inactive Hydrothermal Hypogenic Karst in SW Sardinia (Italy) Alexander Klimchouk et al. Hypogene Karst Regions and Caves of the World, Springer, pp 183-197, ISBN 978-3-319-53347-6.
Address: Grotta di Santa Barbara, Fraz. San Giovanni Miniera, 09016 Iglesias SU, Tel: +39-0781-274507.
Tourist Office, Piazza Municipio, 1, 09016 Iglesias CA, Tel: +39-0781-274507. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1554 first serious attempt of mining by the Genoese Antonio Massimo Marti.
1859 research permission obtained by engineer Keller
1867 mine founded by Gonnesa Mining Company Limited.
1904 purchased by Pertusola and modernized, modern laundry, electric power plant and cableway built.
1918 new ore body Idrina discovered.
1952 cave discovered by a miner.
1960s drop in production.
1967 mine purchased by state owned Piombo Zincifera Sarda.
1982 mine owned by the SAMIN s.p.a..
1987 mine owned by Società Italiana Miniere who closed all the mines.
1998 mine finally closed.


The Grotta di Santa Barbara is a show cave which was discovered during the mining operations in 1952. It was developed as a show cave some years ago, but the expected numbers of visitors were not met. So the cave is open only on reservation.

The mines in southwest Sardinia are mining ore bodies in the clefts of limestone. At the same time the limestone is karstified and contains caves. It was quite common to discover small caves or cracks with speleothems during mining operations. Mostly they were used to deposit slack. However, this cave was so extraordinary, the miners where quite astonished when they found it, and so it was respected for decades and not touched by the miners.

The cave is located in the middle of the abandoned mine. The tour of the cave starts with a ride on a mine train, 700 m into the mine. Here the visitors use a cage in a raise to reach the level of the cave. And finally have to climb a spiral staircase into the cave. So this is the most complicated way to reach a cave we know.

This cave is quite exceptional, as it is a combination of karst cave and geode. The walls show classical speleothems like stalactites and stalagmites, but also tabular dark brown and white baryte crystals, aragonite and calcite crystals, and helictites. The colour of the speleothems on the other hand is almost completely pure white, which is quite exceptional. The cavern is interpreted as a hypogene cave, which was formed by the solution of sulfuric acid which originated from the sulfuric ores.

The main contains numerous such caves, many were immediately mined and are now destroyed. The speleological exploration of all those caves started late in the 20th century. One problem was the restricted access inside operating mines, now the problem is that abandoned mines are quite unsafe. Also the mines were not interested to document mines, so it took the rediscovery of the cave to correctly interpret the the mine map, which actually showed the cave without any hint that it was a natural cave.

The Miniera di San Giovanni (Mine of San Giovanni) is also sometimes called Mine of Iglesias. It was mined a little during Roman times, but modern mining started in 1867. A huge body of calamine mixed with silver galena named Santa Barbara was mined. The mine was purchased in 1904 by Pertusola, which was owned by Lord Thomas Alnutt Brassey. He modernized the mine, built a modern laundry, an electric power plant and a cableway to transport the ore. He named the new laundry Idina, after his wife, as well as the newly discovered orebody in 1918. The decline came in the 60s, too high production costs which caused nationalization and finally closure. In the 21st century with the help of the EU and under the management of IGEA the mine was partly renovated. It is now part of the Geo-mining Park, but despite the cave tour there was no part of the mine opened to the public. Only some of the most important surface buildings are kept from rotting.