Mining at Lavrio in the 19th and the 20th CenturyLAVRION: The biggest city of Lavreotiki, on the southeastern side of the Attiki prefecture. It takes its name of “lavra” or “lavri” which means narrow passage, tunnel, and characteristics of the area which is full of ancient and modern minimg galleries.
Lavrio was one of the most important new cities in Greece in the last century.It was built as a worker’s settlement from scratch, in the newly founded Hellenic State, following the “company model”. The setting up of Lavrion and the exploitation of its subsoil is directly linked to the effort of the new State to develop its resources and industry in the 19th century.
|The ancient Greeks started mining the area before 3000 BC. The
systematic and intensive exploitation though, of the silver and lead
ores, began with the birth of the Athenian Republic in 508 BC. Pericles
constructed the immortal monuments of the Golden Age of Athens with the
silver of Lavrion and the tax contributions of his allies. After the
end of classical antiquity, any important mining and metallurgical
activity ceases at Lavrion, followed by many centuries of inactivity.|
Greek Tetradrachm Coin (5th century BC)
|In 1869, the company has a dispute with the Hellenic State, the famous “Lavreotika Affair”, over the ownership of the ancient mining residues, known as off-grade ores. Negotiations result in the setting up of two companiesin 1873: “The Lavrion Metallurgical Company” and the French-Hellenic company named “Mines of Camariza”.|
Τwo years later, in 1875, J.B Serpieri founded the “Compagnie Francaise des Mines du Lavrium”, which succeeded the “Mines du Camariza”. It was set up at Kyprianos area.
The Hellenic and French companies were those which essentially supported the new period of Lavreotiki’s prosperity. They put their seal on the development of the mining industry in Greece as well as on the setting up and the character of the city of Lavrion. The 1867’s workers’ settlement developed into a 10.000 inhabitants city in the beginning of this century. The most durable of the two companies, the French, built 45.000 m2 of installations at Kyprianos site.
The two Lavrion companies were responsible for the city’s operation. Houses and shops belonged to them. People were cared for in their hospitals and pharmacies. They built the schools, churches and port facilities.
The birth of industry at Lavrion, brought about a degradation of the environment as a result of the intense metalurgical activity. The natural landscape and the rich forest vegetation rapidly deteriorated. The swamps and the coasts were covered with solid waste, the lush forests were burnt by arson, while smog from the furnaces covered the wider area of the city over many kilometers.
Life in the city of Lavrion, since it was so closely related to 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 First World War thought, striked the decisive blow. In 1930, the Hellenic company sold out its installations. Towards the end of the 1920’s, the population of the Municipality of Lavreotiki, was reduced by 50%. Refugees from Asia Minor in 1922, regenerated the city’s population. In the mid 1950’s, a new period commenced for Lavrion which lasted for several decades and saw the development of new industrial branches. In 1980, Lavrion faced a new cycle of crisis, as a result of de-industrialization all over Greece. Tens of units ceased their operation and more than 20% of the population left town due to unemployment.
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
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