Exploring Cueva de las Estegamitas: A fortuitous discovery / Speleologist in action

Cueva de las Estegamitas (Stegamites Cave) was initially called Cueva de la Maravilla Blanca (White Wonder Cave). It was discovered sometime in the spring of 2021, in one of the mining fronts of the Cement Factory quarry in La Araña (Malaga).

Photographs and videos went viral in social networks, highlighting the existence of a large number of speleothems of various shapes, sizes and types, and also highlighting that its galleries were notable in size, with large and spacious halls.

A significant media impact was generated, and it was followed by a great interest from various scientific and speleological groups among others, as well as society in general, even considering an online campaign to collect signatures for the conservation of the cave.

The social pressure on the possible existence of archaeological remains (due to the proximity of the cave to the nearby protected heritage site Cueva Navarro IV), caused the political administration (Junta de Andalucía) to order the cement company to stop the mining activity in that area of the quarry, until a study on the matter was carried out by independent experts.

A year later, the cement company that owns the land granted an extraordinary authorization between April 10th and July 10th, 2022. An exploration and research team could access the interior of the cave and carry out prospecting work, geological and paleoclimatic studies.

The work team was made up of twenty-four people, fifteen of them speleologists from the Underground Explorations Group of the Málaga Excursionist Society, GES de la SEM (Grupo de Exploraciones Subterráneas de la Sociedad Excursionista de Málaga) and the other nine belonging to the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, IGME-CSIC (Centro Nacional Instituto Geológico y Minero de España), to the University of Malaga, UMA, and to the company eGeoMapping.

Due to the limited time allowed for access, multidisciplinary teams were formed to work simultaneously on exploring the largest possible number of galleries, gaining access through small, narrow passages and interior pits to new areas and halls that allowed the explorations to be expanded. At first, only 763 meters were known by the cement factory technicians, and now, 1,303 meters were explored by this team.

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