History

In the next pages you may read a concise record in time of the Lavrio area, concerning mostly the mining and metallurgical activities that took place in situ, until the establishment of the Lavrio Technological and Cultural Park, on the premises of the former French Mining Company.

Mining at Lavrio in the 19th and the 20th Century

Lavrio is the one of the two towns of Lavreotiki, a municipality on the southeastern side of the Attika prefecture. Its name comes from “lavra” or “lavri”, which means narrow passage, tunnel. In fact, all the area is full of ancient and modern mining galleries.

Lavrio, in spite of its small scale (about 10.000 habitants) has been one of the most important industrial centers in Greece during 19th century. It was built as a worker's settlement, in the newly founded Hellenic State, partly following the "company model". The formation of Lavrio, through emigration, had been inherent to the exploitation of its rich subsoil that was, in its turn, directly linked to the effort of the new State to develop its resources and industry in the 19th century.

The ancient Greeks started mining in the area before 3000 BC. The systematic and intensive exploitation of the silver and lead ores though, began with the birth of the Athenian Republic in 508 BC. The immortal monuments of the Golden Age of Pericles have been realized by means of the silver of Lavrio, together with the tax contributions of Athens’ allies. After the end of classical antiquity, any important mining and metallurgical activity have been ceased in Lavreotiki. Many centuries of relevant inactivity have been followed.
Greek Tetradrachm Coin (5th century BC)

In 1863, the Italian mining engineer and operator J.B.Serpieri, gets convinced to exploit the ancient slags, after having been consulted the detailed report of the young mining engineer A. Kordellas, who was sent by the Greek young government to visit Lavreotiki in1860, on that purpose. In 1864, Serpieri founds the Italian - French company "Hilarion Roux et Cie" at the "Ergastiriakia port" (port of Lavrio). The company undertakes the exploitation of the ancient slugs and the extraction of silver containing lead ores. It inaugurats a fully equipped plant in 1865, with 18 furnaces, small ore-washing units and a railway system. The company continues to expand fast. In 1867 already, it employed 1.200 workers, a record number compared to contemporary employment figures country-wide.

In 1869, there is a dispute between the company and the Hellenic State,the renowned "Lavreotika Affair", over the ownership of the ancient mining dumps, known as off-grade ores. Negotiations result in the setting up of two companies in 1873: "The Lavrion Metallurgical Company" and the French-Hellenic company named "Mines of Kamariza".
Two years later, in 1875, J.B Serpieri founded the "Compagnie Francaise des Mines du Lavrium", which succeeded the "Mines du Kamariza". The new firm was settled at the Cyprianos area.

 

Both the Hellenic and French companies have been the essential supporting factors of Lavrio area's development in that new period of the industrialization of Greece. Furthermore, the two companies put their seal on the emersion of the mining industry in modern Greece as well as on the creation of a new town character. The 1867 workers' settlement was finally developed into a 10.000 inhabitants' town in the beginning of this century. The French Company, bigger of the two of the kind, built a total of 45.000 m2 of installations on Cyprianos site.
The two companies have been, for a long time, responsible for the town's operation. A great number of houses and shops were belonging to them. They constructed urban infrastructures, such as schools, churches, a small hospital and port facilities, in order to facilitate their operations and attract working population. The Hellenic Company is associated with the use, for the first time in Greece, of electricity, the telephone and other technological innovations. Those included the construction of the Attikos railway (1882-1885), thus connecting Lavrion to Athens.

The birth of industry in the area of Lavrio, has caused, on the other hand, a degradation of the environment as a result of the intense mining and metallurgical activity. The natural landscape and the lush forest vegetation have been rapidly deteriorated. The swamps and the coasts were covered with solid wastes; the forests were often burnt down by arson, while smog from the furnaces covered the wider area over many kilometers.

Social life in Lavrio, having been so depended from the industries of the area, naturally followed their course. The first serious crisis came about in the 1880's and 1890's when the price of lead went down. The 1st World War thought, stroke the decisive blow. In 1930, the Hellenic company sold out its installations.

Towards the end of the 1920s, the population of the Municipality of Lavreotiki, was reduced by 50%. Refugees from Asia Minor in 1922 and, since, regenerated the city's population. In the mid 1950's, the town was introduced in a new period that lasted for several decades and was characterized by the development of new industrial branches: Electric power production, textile industry, army industry, appliances fabrication, etc.

During the late1980's and early 1990's, Lavrio faced a new cycle of crisis, as a result of the broader de-industrialization all over Greece. Tens of units ceased their operation and more than the 20% of the population left the town, due to unemployment.

Next page - The French Mining Company of Lavrio
Last page - The crisis and the birth of the Technology Park





Lavrion light

Get the book by Dr. G.N. Dermatis "Lavreio black light: The mining and metallurgical industry in Lavreio 1860-1917, Greek and European dimension" from the LTCP publications

For more information please contact with the LTCP Secretariat