Zone Laguna Auquilco
Features and antecedents of the area.
During the first half of the last century, the area concentrated an important mining activity related to the exploitation of veins of asphaltite and rafaelite. The German company TUNGAR was the one with longer permanence in the zone of the gypsum company Auquilco, installing there one of the most modern mining complexes of the time. With the best technological resources used then in the coal mining of Central Europe, the firm was able to keep the exploitations running for more than two decades without interruptions. From 1950 and until the end of the decade 1970, the exploration of these substances in the province of Neuquén was in charge of Yacimientos Carboníferos Fiscales. During this period, new occurrences and manifestations were made evident, although the liquid petroleum had conquered from long ago the energetic demand in the world. Even so, some deposits sporadically continue with their exploitations, in this district and in others located in the region Rincón de los Sauces-Auca Mahuida. The few active mines currently extracting asphaltite commercialize these substances mainly in the varnish and paint industry and in asphaltic coating or as light additives in injection muds of the petroleum exploration. It is important to take into account that after every energetic crisis of the last century and the current century, even if it is an oil or nuclear crisis, the asphaltites go back to the center of attention because as a product of their distillation it is possible to obtain kerogen (intermediate hydrocarbon between gasoline and gasoil), which is consumed in large quantities as carbo reactor, apart from the obtainment of other derivatives with economic value.
Therefore, the recurrent interest risen by asphaltites in Neuquén, particularly those in the area of Auquilco, because one of their features is to have high content of fixed and volatile carbon and low proportion of sulfur, and can be generally found in quite important vertical veins.
Apart from asphaltites, the zone also presents the largest gypsum outcrops in the Neuquén basin, in which some time ago was detected a group of geological evidences that could indicate the possible formation of biogenetic sulfur. This fact rises up the mining potential of the zone. Even when no deposits of economic interest were found up to now, the sulfur manifestations and occurrences and the geological features of the environment in each of them keeps the prospective interest present. The project Los Petisos is worth mentioning, 90 km to the SSE of Malargüe, (province of Mendoza), where the exploratory development allowed the discovery of the first biogenetic sulfur deposit in South America, with a measured quantity up to now of 3.753.000 tons of recovery sulfur. (Carotti,1999- en Danieli et al 2011)