Real Cuerpo de Minería

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Real Cuerpo de Minería

Real Cuerpo de Minería, the guild of mine operators and refiners formally created in late-eighteenth-century Mexico and Peru. Impetus for this reform came in 1771 from the inspector general of New Spain, don José de Gálvez, probably as a result of his conversations with Mexican mine operators. Gálvez complained that the miners of Spanish America lacked the organizational structure to regulate the industry or improve its technological standards.

In 1776, Mexican mine operators received royal permission to establish a formal guild. The decree ordered the cuerpo to form a tribunal for adjudication of mining cases, with the tribunal drawing up mining ordinances to regulate the industry. Charles III approved the revised ordinances in 1783. Through a small tax on each mark of silver produced, the guild paid the costs of the tribunal and of the mining school, which opened in 1792.

As Secretary of the Indies, Gálvez created similar guilds in the Peruvian and Río de la Plata viceroyalties, with the Mexican mining code adapted to fit local circumstances. The Peruvian guild began functioning in Lima in 1787, although it failed to establish a mining school. After considerable delay, the Potosí tribunal opened officially in 1794.

The guilds gave miners an institutional voice, which they used to obtain tax reductions and other concessions from the crown, but they were less successful as instruments of technological change within the industry.

See alsoMining: Colonial Spanish America; Potosí.


Walter Howe, The Mining Guild of New Spain and Its Tribunal General, 1770–1821 (1949).

J. R. Fisher, Silver Mines and Silver Miners in Colonial Peru, 1776–1824 (1977).

Rose Marie Buechler, The Mining Society of Potosí, 1776–1810 (1981), esp. chap. 3.

Miguel Molina Martínez, El Real Tribunal de Minería de Lima (1785–1821) (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Brading, David. A. Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

Castillo Martos, Manuel, ed. Minería y metalurgia: Intercambio tecnológico y cultural entre América y Europa durante el período colonial español. Sevilla: Muñoz Montoya y Montraveta Editores, 1994.

Falcón Gutiérrez, José Tomás. Guanajuato, minería, comercio y poder: Los criollos en el desarrollo económico y político del Guanajuato de las postrimerías del siglo XVIII. Guanajuato: La Rana, 1998.

                                Kendall W. Brown