Post-mining regeneration and mining heritage tourism

The mutually beneficial relationship between mining and tourism is now more than obvious in hundreds of sites all over the world, for the reason that mine opening and closure provides socio-economic development opportunities for all stakeholders. Typically this is the positive product of a trilateral procedure of consultation that involves responsible mining companies, pro-active governments and rational communities.

The process of mine closure should always start at an early stage of the mine design, rather than when conflicts occur. Nowadays this process is not based only on initiatives from mining companies or communities, but it’s an obligation by European and member states’ regulations. Moreover, it should be stressed that mine closure could be the link to transfer capital from mining to generations to come. If the local communities are involved actively, they will be able to contribute to the sustainable development of their future generations.

One of the best examples of post-mining regeneration is Eden Project (Photo 1). It represents the world largest Greenhouse Complex, which is located in a former clay pit in Cornwall. It houses 250,000 of plant species. It includes world-class sculpture and art, evening gigs, concerts and an ice rink in the winter, an educational centre, etc. The Eden Project has created enormous tourist industry with in excess of a million visitors a year. It employs some 700 staff and volunteers. Since its establishment in 2001 has created growth of 800 million pounds.

Another excellent example of mining heritage which provides tourists is the Mining Museum of Rio Tinto (Huelva, Andalucía). The Mining Museum is the centre for the Riotinto Mining Park, which is administered by the Riotinto Foundation. Foundation’s aim is the conservation and restoration of the historical mining heritage of the Riotinto mines, as well as the creation of employment and tourism in the mining area. This work has won several awards such as the Henry Ford award for heritage conservation in 1998, and the Cultural Heritage of the European Union Award, Europa Nostra in 2003. The museum has an area of 1,800 M² and fourteen exhibition areas. Among the exhibits is a reproduction of a Roman mine and the house number 21 belonging to the former British district of Bella Vista.

The Mining Museum owns also the mining railway. It’s a restored 12km railway (Photo 2) of the former commercial line to Huelva. The trip can be taken in restored carriages and locomotives. On the exciting journey, running parallel to the Rio Tinto, the train passes through impressive landscapes belonging to the old smelting and industrial facilities, as well as beautiful scenery normally inaccessible to the traveller.

Within the current Rio Tinto mine, which constitutes one of the biggest copper mines globally, the famous Corta Atalaya pit occurs. It is the biggest open pit in Europe (1,200m long,  900m wide and 350m deep), whilst attracts the attention of 80,000 visitors per year.

Finally, the Mecca of the historical mining towns of Slovakia is Banska Stiavnica, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo 3). In middle ages, Banska Stiavnica was the centre of precious metal mining in the Habsburg monarchy. In 1762 the first mining academy in the world was established and thus the town became the heart of mining science and technology in Europe. Furthermore, in Banska Stiavnica gun powder was used in underground mining for the first time. Lastly a sophisticated system of water reservoirs and channels known as “taichy” have been designed and built by local scientists to drain water from the flooded mines.

Nowadays, Stiavnica is the seat of Slovak Mining Museum, which has 6 exposures: the Open-Air Mining Museum, a Mining exhibition–Kammerhof, a Mineral exposition, the Old castle (13th-18th centuries), the New castle and Josef Kollar Gallery. Also the Main Mining Bureau, Slovakian highest authorities for mining, is based in Stiavnica.  This town is the place, where every year the Mining Days celebrations involve a spectacular parade and various events that are organised according to old traditions.

In 2012 it is expected that some 800,000 people will visit Banska Stiavnica.

Demetrios Constantinides, EMED Slovakia