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Sundry papers held in London

The Rothschild Archive London holds no papers of French Rothschild mining interests with the exception of some printed material of the Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya and Le Nickel-SLN, listed below.

Correspondence between the London Partners and their French cousins makes reference to mining business. See Records of the London bankin house: Correspondence Department, Private Letters to the Paris House, 1906-1914 (XI/130A/0-8) and Correspondence from de Rothschild Frères, 1837-1918 (XI/101/0-104).

Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya

The French mining company, Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya was founded in part by the French Rothschilds (together with the coal and metallurgical company Bélmez) in 1881. Like many large companies of the nineteenth century, it combined metallurgy, coal and railways, exploiting lead ore and zinc resources in Spain. The first mines and factories of the company were the lead mine at Peñarroya-Pueblonuevo, Spain, under the direction of the French engineer Charles Ledoux. The first Chairman was the Antwerp banker Louis Cahen d'Anvers, with Ferdinand Duval as Vice-chairman. With the Rothschilds, Louis Cahen d'Anvers took 4,000 of the 10,000 shares issued for the creation of the company. The company expanded into coal, operating mines in the Sierra Morena, Spain. In 1902, at the Colliery Carbonifera del Sur and the Colliery Puertollano, in the Sierra de Cartagena, the company established hospitals and schools run by nuns for the colony of miners. The Mining and Smelting Company of Peñarroya also revived lead mines at Laurion in Greece.

In 1912, shortly before the First World War, Peñarroya bought the French company of Mines and Mills Escombrera-Bleyberg, which was active in the mining of coal and lead in Spain and Belgium. In the same year, the company diversified into silver extraction in Peru. In 1917 Peñarroya acquired lead operations at Pierrefitte in the Hautes-Pyrénées. In 1931, the profits of the Peñarroya group of companies on Spanish soil accounted for 12 million pesetas. The group purchased shares in the silver-lead mine in La Plagne (Savoie), and the silver-lead mine at Orb (Vaucluse), and operated silver-lead mines at Largentière in the Ardèche, Malines (Gard), and silver-lead and zinc mines at Peyrebrune, Tarn in the Midi-Pyrénées. In 1950, Peñarroya matched the turnover of Rio Tinto. In 1960, the group acquired the Franco-Belgian Miniere du M'Zaïta, Algeria which produced phosphate of lime. The company futher diversified into zinc in Italy, a profitable byproduct of the refining of lead ore; in 1963 Italy produced 72% of the zinc ore extracted by the group. At Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme, Tarn in the Midi-Pyrénées, a site discovered in 1968, the group mined zinc, and the metalloid germanium.

In 1969, Société Le Nickel another mining company of which the Rothschilds held a substantial interest merged with Peñarroya. In 1974, Banque Rothschild established Imétal, an umbrella company  for their mineral concerns  Imétal grew rapidly, acquiring interests in the United States and Britain. The Rothschilds lost much of their stake in Imétal when the French bank was nationalised in 1981. In 1999, Imétal became Imerys, specialising in specialty minerals.

Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya, brochure, c.1957

000/1954, 1 item

Brochure produced by the Service des Etudes in the French Bank, de Rothschild Frères Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya, c.1957. The French mining company, Société minière et métallurgique de Peñarroya was founded in part by the French Rothschilds (together with the coal and metallurgical company Bélmez) in 1881. Like many large companies of the nineteenth century, it combined metallurgy, coal and railways, exploiting metal ore resources across the globe.

Société Le Nickel

The Rothschilds have had a stake in nickel since 1883, through their association with the founding of the Société Le Nickel, formed to extract the raw material in the French colony of New Caledonia. In 1880, large deposits of high grade nickel were discovered in New Caledonia by a Frenchman, Jules Garnier, the founder of Société Le Nickel. At that time nickel was a highly coveted metal, found in only a few places in the world. In 1884, the French Rothschilds became involved with the enterprise, investing FF2 million and becoming the major shareholders.

Mining was just one of the French Rothschilds' considerable raw material interests. In 1974, Banque Rothschild established Imétal, an umbrella company  for their mineral concerns. Imétal grew rapidly, acquiring interests in the United States and Britain. The subsidiary Société Le Nickel strengthened the mining of nickel in New Caledonia, and in 1974, Imétal sold a 50% stake in Société Le Nickel to the French public coporation Elf-Acquitaine. The Rothschilds lost much of their stake in Imétal when the French bank was nationalised in 1981. The government-controlled Enterprise de Receherches et d'Activités Pétrolières acquired 70% of the stock of Société Le Nickel, leaving Imétal and Elf-Acquitaine each with 15%. In 1999, Imétal became Imerys. 

Société Le Nickel, 'Le Nickel-SLN', centenary brochure, 1980

000/2438, 1 volume

Le Nickel-SLN, Centenary brochure, 1980: 100 ans d’une entreprise et d’une industrie, (Le Nickel-SLN, 1980). The French Rothschilds have had a stake in nickel since 1883, through their association with the founding of the Société Le Nickel, formed to extract the raw material in the French colony of New Caledonia. In 1880, large deposits of high grade nickel were discovered in New Caledonia by a Frenchman, Jules Garnier, the founder of Société Le Nickel. At that time nickel was a highly coveted metal, found in only a few places in the world. In 1884, the French Rothschilds became involved with the enterprise, investing FF2 million and becoming the major shareholders.

Société Le Nickel, secondary sources, 1968

000/2143, 1 item

Pamphlet L'Assiette au Canard, a satirical publication, 31 January 1968. The title is 'Les Rothschild 68'. The business Société Le Nickel, New Caledonia features prominently: it is the subject of a two-page article entitled 'Nickel de Nouvelle-Calédonie: les Rothschild ont-ils berné de Gaulle?'.