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THE VILLAGE - martedì 21 maggio 2024 

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[THE VILLAGE’S HISTORY]

The mining activity



One of the most ancient activities in the Versilian’s area, even if it’s unknown by many, it’s the mining activity. The Versilia’s mines (which origins seems to goes back to the Etruscan’s age but, surely, they were exploited in the Roman’s age) are situated in the area that goes, from the village of Valdicastello, crossing through the villages of Sant’Anna, Farnocchia, Mulina, Gallena, Cardoso to (beyond of the Pania mountain) the village of Fornovolasco (it’s near to the "Grotta del Vento"). Moreover, there are other mining sites next to the villages of Ripa di Seravezza and Levigliani; in the last one, there were two mines of mercury.
The geologists calls these mining deposits "window of Sant’Anna". The area’s place-names are meaningful of this activity: the village of Gallena takes its name by the "galena argentifera" (silver galena); there are two places called "Argentiera" (Full of silver), near the villages of Sant’Anna and Ruosina di Seravezza; under the municipality of Stazzema there are two places called Calcaferro (Press-iron) and Buca della Vena (Hole of the Veining).

On the whole area there are still manufactured articles (mining archaeology), old galleries and, in the bottom of the valley, ancient foundries of iron. On top of the village of Valdicastello, there is still a building recently restructured which, at the time of the Great-Dukedom of Tuscany, was the foundry in which the silver, extracted by the mines of Argentiera of Sant’Anna, was worked.
The popular tradition tells that the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini bought, from that foundry, the precious mineral to chisel some vases for his patrons Medici.

The mineral extracted in this area were: mixed sulphur as pyrites, pyrites cuprifera and silver galena, iron ore as limonite, magnetite and ematite and sulfate of barium (baritina). In the minerals’ mass, which is often a mixture, there are also a little of mercury and others rare minerals. Historical informations about the mining activity go back to the Lords of Luni and the Lords of Corvaia’s age. The Lords stipulated some contracts of passage of title, in which are news about the harbor of Motrone (near Pietrasanta) from which ships loaded of these minerals leaved the zone.

The more known mining activity goes back to the XVIII century, when the Versilian’s mines were managed by a French company, later replaced by an English one.
At the beginning of the last century, the mines passed to a German company. It built the teleferica for the transport of the mineral (extracted by the mine of Arsiccio Mountain) from Sant’Anna to Valdicastello. Here, was prepared a railway line to transport the mineral up to the railway station of Pietrasanta. The track of the railway is still visible, on the left side of the Baccatoio stream.

The owners of the mines were, at that time, the Wagners (German). In Pietrasanta still are living the descendants of this lineage. When the first world war started, the mines were nationalized and passed to the Edison company until 1945. During both the world wars, the mines worked full-time employing some hundred of miners. During the second world war the mines were classified as auxiliary establishment (they were militarized) and the miners, who worked there, were exonerated by the military service.

In the XIX century was established an important bond among the mines and the poet Giosuè Carducci. His dad, Dr. Michele, was at that time, the physician of the miners.
During both the world wars, the iron minerals were entirely used by the war industry located in the cityes of Piombino and Genova.
In the second halves of the fourties, the Edison gave the mines to a private company of the city of Orvieto, the manager of which are Camponetti and Moretti.

After the 8 of September of 1943 (when the armistice was signed and the Nazi invaded Italy) the mining activity was suspended; it started again after 1945. During the Nazi occupation, in 1944, the mining structures were partially destroyed and the stores of Valdicastello were used as hospital of the area. The Nazis declared Pietrasanta and many others Versilian’s villages as "black zone", except Valdicastello, which was declared "white zone"; for this reason it represented a safe area.

Was Sir Erasmo Sgarroni, owner of an important building industry in Rome (industrial enterprises’ society) and of some brickyards in Grosseto and in Chiusi (Siena), to give a new push to the mining activity. In the beginning (1948) were still extracts ferrous minerals but, subsequently, the mining activity was applied mainly to the extraction of barium’s minerals (baritina). Also in Italy, in fact, it was started the search of the hydrocarbons by the public society ENI, whose president was Enrico Mattei.
It started to perforate the national territory in different places, especially in Val Padana; one of the minerals used for these perforations really was the baritina (barium). So, Sgarroni, who immediately understood the importance of the Versilian barium’s layers, began to extract them on an industrial scale. He also built industrial plants for the barium’s treatment and enrichment, to furnish to Agip (a firm of ENI) the finished product.
Val Padana was mainly supplied, but also other places of the national territory where were started other oil searches; for the Agip important supplies were sended to the foreign countries. The company EDEM had the monopoly of this product until the end of the eighties. The baritina (barium) was situated in subsoil in the mining sites of Valdicastello (Pollone) and of S.A. (Mountain Arsiccio) and the miners employed to the extraction were around one hundred, while the fittingses of enrichment, of transformation and of marketing were in Valdicastello where also the offices were. The workers employed to this last activity were around 50 unities. Another employment of the baritina, united naturally to the ematite, consisted in the formation of heavy concretes used in the screen of the radioactive sources. The waterproofing of the x-ray rooms, but most of all the nuclear plants that in the years ’70-80 were also in construction in Italy needed for the employment of thousand of tons of this natural product that was extracted in the other active mine that was found at Buca della Vena not too far the country of Cardoso. In this mining site were employed about 30 miners.

After the referendum that rejected, in Italy, the construction of nuclear plants the EDEM had a first restructuration. The personnel employee was reduced to a few more than 100 unities and the opening to the international markets with consequent reduction of the prices of the final products, subsequently, put the firm in further economic difficulties that together the disappearance of Sgarroni and Gorelli, had been in the last 30 years the technical person responsible of the mines, there was the definitive closing of this important activity at the end of 1990.
The closing of the mines is not due therefore to the exhaustion of the mining layer, but to the fact that the extraction and the process of enrichment became antieconomic.

The job of the miners was hard, fatiguing and risky not only exposing them to the daily risks of possible collapses of the tunnels or the use of the explosives, but also and above all of the saturated dusts of light particles of silice that breathed, they deposited on the bellows of the workers causing in the time, the deadly professional illness "silicosi" that it very often caused the predecease of the workers or at least a reduction of the respiratory abilities. Other professional illnesses for this activity were: the deafness from noises "ipoacusia" and the "angioneurosi" that it was the specific illness of who usually used the vibrating tools and the miners, and because having to employ daily the pneumatic hammers they were also easily subjected to this further illness.




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