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Σάββατο, 1 Αυγούστου 2020

The Keramos Antimonite mines in Chios island, Greece: Mining history and current situation

The geological structure of Chios Island, based on the data of Kondopoulou et al. (1993), Pe-Piper et al.(1994), Tselepidis & Rondoyanni (2010) and López-Antoñanzas et al. (2019).

A schematic geological map of the area around Keramos, featuring the rough limits of the stibium mineralisation (after Chatzidiakos et al., 2008).

[by Argyrios Periferakis, Department of Geology and Geoenvironment, EKPA]

The Keramos antimony mines in Chios Island are not amongst the most well known mining endeavours in the Islands of the Aegean, being overshadowed by more lasting and successful cases, such as those in Naxos and Serifos, to name but a few. Yet, their significance was great for the local society, whose prosperity followed the meteoric rise and fall of the mining enterprise, in two different and temporally distant periods. Antimony, despite its current status as a critical metal, and thus its value, could not, more than 50 years ago, be exploited in an economically viable way, in the studied historical and spatial context. The miners would suffer after the mines' closure, not just from relative poverty, but from the catastrophic health consequences of antimony mining. The mines and the associated mining facilities lay today almost forgotten and derelict. However, there is the possibility of their successful development into a thematic geopark, since they constitute a valuable geocheritage and cultural site.

Some of the buildings, as they stood in 1954, schetched in their original condition: (a) the staff residences; (b) the ore enrichment facilities; (c) the chemical lab (from Kalargyrou, 2015).
The existence of over 30 mines and quarries in the Islands of the Aegean, between 1850 and 1950 is well known (Belavilas, 2009), although the mining activities themselves and their repercussions for the locals are not documented in full, in most cases. Invariably, the existence of the mines gave rise to small mining settlements, which, given the relative lack of communication on the landward side in the Islands of the period, were more akin to mining colonies (Belavilas, 2003) of an era long gone by, rather than integrated socioeconomic units in the cultural fabric of each Island. 

The Aegean Sea comprises numerous ore deposits and prospects, mostly of porphyry and epithermal nature (Melfos & Voudouris, 2017; Voudouris et al., 2018; Voudouris et al., 2019b). Curiously, many significant prospects were not discovered during the golden era of prospecting in the Aegean, like the Stypsi prospect (Periferakis, 2014, 2019g; Periferakis et al., 2017, 2018; Voudouris et al., 2019c) in Lesvos, the Fakos prospect in Lemnos (Voudouris et al., 2018, 2019d), and the KondarosKatsimouti mineralisation in Melos (Papavassiliou et al., 2016). In other instances of ore deposits, like in Megala Therma, Lesvos (Voudouris & Alfieris, 2005), exploitation was so brief that virtually no records or physical evidence exist. Other types of geological resources include industrial minerals (e.g. Sterba et al., 2010; Tsirambides & Filippidis, 2012; Anastasatou et al., 2014; Stamatakis et al., 2019) and the famous marbles of Paros, Tinos and Naxos (Laskaridis, 2008). Naturally, the mineral wealth has been an integral part of the local economy from antiquity (Economopoulos, 1996) to the modern era. In any case, most mining and quarrying enterprises were short-lived, and even those that were to endure through time, like the emery mines of Naxos (Periferakis, 2019d), were plagued by many problems. 

The main problems affecting the Greek mining enterprises were international competition, the incomplete legal and legislative framework on mining, which hindered investments, and the opportunistic nature of many foreign and domestic investors, which frequently lead to short-lived operations, whether due to planning or lack thereof... This is evident in the Island of Chios, where organised mining operations did not last collectively more than a decade, and were always in the limits of financial viability. While it is frequently argued that mining operations had a beneficial side, in addition to any potential detriments, the case in question must suffer a more condemning verdict. 

The mining boom, both at the turn of the 19th century and after 1945, was not enough to maintain a viable local economy, but yet was adequate to foster a rapid population growth, relatively speaking, in the village of Keramos and in surrounding area, which rapidly outgrew its economic means of support, after the closure of the mines. Had they been developed properly the mines could have provided a financial counterweight for the Northern side of the Island, so as to balance the wealthy endeavours of the mastic producers of Southern Chios. In turn this could create a balanced economy, and minimise economic, social and developmental discrepancies between the different insular communities. The end result, alas, would be very different. The foreign and Greek entrepreneurs were neither supported nor regulated by the State, which admittedly, in both cases, was plagued by a host of various difficulties, at a financial, administrational, and at a political level no less. 

Today, the abandoned and dilapidated buildings of the mining complex stand guard over the mine tunnels, which have long gone unvisited, tragic monuments to a fleeting chance of change, for the locals of different generations. They are all that remains, along with the memories of the dead miners, and the environmental destruction, both unneeded sacrifices in the altar of the mining industry's greed. But perhaps there is still a possibility that Keramos benefits from its mining heritage, if only the State should mobilise in time...


Το αντιμόνιο (Sb) και τα κοιτάσματα αντιμονίου της Ελλάδας