hidden europe 37

Mining heritage

by hidden europe

Picture above: Elvas in Portugal has just been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (photo © Inacio Pires).


A new crop of European heritage has just been added to UNESCO's celebrated list of notable heritage. The newcomers to the World Heritage List include remarkable industrial villages in Flanders and Wallonie, a German opera house and a clutch of colourful Swedish farmhouses.

Workers in the Slovenian town of Idrija are still busy closing down the local mercury mine. “It’s not just a question of shutting off production and locking the gate,” said the local mayor, when we attended a reception in Idrija in 2005. “The whole process of securing and decontaminating the site can take a dozen years or more.”

Seven years on from our last visit to Idrija, the small community in the Primorska region has just had a piece of good news. UNESCO announced in early July that the mercury mining complex in Idrija has been added to the List of World Heritage Sites. It is a joint inscription, covering both the Slovenian mining community and Almadén in Spain, another place where the entire fabric of society and the local economy has for centuries been defined by mercury extraction. The mine at Almadén closed in 2000.

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