The exploitation of opencast lignite in Fumanya has revealed
outcrops of extraordinary dinosaur footprints, the world's largest outcrop of
Maastrichtian sauropod tracks. The footprints were originally created on a
former calcareous lake bed which has since been uplifted to form an impressive
50,000 square metres rock face. This provides a panoramic view of thousands of
traces of dinosaur footprints of various types and sizes preserved in the rock.
There are traces that can be followed up to 50 metres long. Footprints of
titanosaurs are predominant, a characteristic of the Maastrichtian sauropod.
Titanosaurs, large herbivores of the Upper Cretaceous, were some of the heaviest
creatures ever to walk the earth, and may have weighed up to 100 tonnes. The
3,000 dinosaur footprints found at Fumanya place this site as the first in
Europe and third in the world in number of tracks after the Lark Quarry
(Australia) and Chaoyang (China).
Panoramic view of the titanosaur dinosaur footprints at
The succession of exploited coal seams are found at the bottom
of the continental facies series of Garumnià (Maastrichtian - Paleocene),
corresponding to the St. Cornelius marl. It belongs structurally to the lower
Pedraforca thrust sheet. The depth varies from 600 metres in the north, to 100
metres in the south.
Coal deposits adjacent to dinosaur tracks at Fumanya
The series starts on the Maastricht levels of fine grain light
grey marine limestones, corresponding to the first continental-brackish
conditions of sedimentation in the basin.
These deposits contain carbonaceous plant remains spread
throughout the basin with a depth of between 5 and 15 metres. The location
within the Pedraforca lower thrust sheet during the Early Eocene led to internal
structures and folds. Because the direction of plate movement is mainly
north-south, the folds and internal structures have an E-W axis direction. The
western end of the lower Pedraforca thrust sheet is in the form of an oblique
ramp orientated NE-SW. The structures associated with this ramp have the same
direction. The intersection of the two directions gives rise to interference
folds: an anticline in the NS axis of the Llobregat and two basins on either
side: the Nou (eastern) and the Vallcebre (west).
Importance as a geological record
The Fumanya site reveals sedimentary facies and processes at
the bottom of the Garumnià coal beds.
It also shows the processes of diagenetic transformation of
carbonaceous sediments in lignite and highlights the issues of economic geology
Gypsum deposits at Fumanya
Major coal mining operations began with Carbones de Berga SA.
Maximum production was reached in the 1960s but it was not until 1965 that
mining operations were mechanised. Decline began in the 1970s resulting in the
closure of the Vallcebre and Fígols mines. Several projects have been initiated
to revive the area, the most important of which is the Museum
of Mines at Cercs.
The Fumanya dinosaur site is included in the Cadí Moixeró
National Park and therefore enjoys some protection from unwanted developments.
In addition, several projects are planned by Carbones de Berga SA in their
restoration of the quarry site. These include a visitors' centre, life-size
replicas of the dinosaurs and the protection of the footprints using resin.
UNESCO has accepted the nomination of Fumanya as a World Heritage site. The site
remains hidden, is not signposted and is currently little known or visited.
Negative impacts and threats
The main problem is the gradual erosion and destruction of the
surface of the tracks. Carbones de Berga SA initiated several protection trials
using different types of resins but with little success and successive layers
and traces have already disappeared. Work has currently been halted on the
The Fumanya lakeside environment 65-70
million years ago