Ekoetxea Meatzaldea is an environmental awareness, education and information facility. This facility has two centres, located in the municipalities of Ortuella and Abanto-Zierbena (Gallarta), in the very heart of a mining territory, and which are strategic spots to discover a unique landscape rich in contrasts. These two sites are ideal to appreciate the profound transformation of the environment as the result of human activity. The intensive exploitation of the iron ore seams in the early 20th century, in a large area of north-west Bizkaia, was the reason for this area being called Meatzaldea or Mining Area. That exploitation led to a highly unusual landscape, and unique in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, whose values are associated to the mining legacy and its cultural and natural heritage. The mining “footprints” are still easily visible; a myriad of infrastructures, artificial lakes, better known as pit lakes (old open-pit mines flooded by underground water and rain) and various other elements have shaped a rather strange landscape. Geodiversity The karst formations can be seen in many external landforms (dolines, springs, sinkholes, etc), in particular the limestone outcrops, while the area has one of the highest densities of underground caverns to be found in the Basque Country. Apart from the karst, the scars left by the mining for iron ore is one of the area’s largest attractions. The seam structures in the limestone have created a unique landscape, noted for the spectacular open pit forms left after removing the iron ore. Biodiversity The natural heritage is particularly noted for the kart-related geodiversity, but the presence of some habitats of interest should not be overlooked. These include the Aranaga, Cepal and Grazal ravines, the Pico La Cruz holm oak grove, streams and wetlands, grazing meadows and heathland, etc. Special mention should also be made of endangered species, including cave bats, birds of prey such as the Egyptian vulture and different amphibian populations, where different measures have been introduced to guarantee the conservation of those vulnerable species. Cultural heritage The cultural values are associated with different megaliths, recognised as Sites of Cultural Interest, and with many haizeolak or mountain forges, traces of the mining activity up to the 14th century, when hydraulic forges, the forerunners of the modern industry, became widespread. Most of the mining heritage – consisting of mines, neighbourhoods, ore loaders and washers, along with other infrastructures to transport the ore – dates back to the “great mining era”, whose heyday was from the end of the 19th century into the early 20th century. This legacy, which is today in different states of conservation, is a mix of technological and architectural values, is of great cultural and social significance and helps us to understand the huge transformation of a natural environment as the result of an economic activity.