PHOTOS: The asbestos mine created the largest working class army in Cyprus

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The asbestos mine on Troodos is the largest in chrysotile asbestos reserves in Europe. It expands within an area of 13 square kilometers and is located in on 1500 meters above sea level.

The asbestos of Cyprus used to be valuable, since it was widely used since the ancient times in cremating sheets and in shoes. The modern history of asbestos begins early in the 20th century with the use of the material in the industry. In 1904 (header photo) some of the local communities acquired the privilege to exploit asbestos. Right after that, a series of different companies’ ownership followed and the mine eventually passed under the authority of the company “Cypriot Asbestos mine LTD”.

Until 1950 the asbestos extraction was conducted manually, consequently it was almost utterly dependent on the human workforce employed by the company, which reach up to thousands of people. Most of the workers would stay in temporary constructions around the mine’s area, which evolved into permanent residences, thus developing a community with schools, hospital and shops.

In 1927 the workers demanded and achieved the decrease of working hours from 10 to 9 per day. The greatest strike occurred in Asbestos in 1929, with the participation of 5000 – 6000 workers, who would protest at the company’s offices, asking for payment increase and the liberty to buy their bread from a bakery of their choice, not the ones of the company, which were far too expensive. The strike was suppressed by the police. Particularly massive was also the strike and protest that took place in 1948, almost 20 years later.

Asbestos extraction with machinery.

After the 1950, the automation of the mine begun with the utilization of large extraction machinery, while from 1963 and on a 9-storey asbestos extrusion plant would operate. This resulted to the decrease of the human workforce and the desolation of the nearby community. The Cyprus Asbestos Mines’ operation was profitable until 1982, when the international campaign against the utilization of asbestos dropped the demand radically.

Photos: Biodiversity Conservation in Restoration and Management of the Amiantos Asbestos Mine, in Troodos National Forest Park, Troodos Geopark

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