The Amiantos asbestos mine which operated during the period 1904 — 1988 and is situated in the Troodos Mountain Range. The Troodos range geologically constitutes part of an ancient geological ocean floor and has been known as the Troodos Ophiolite Complex. Asbestos occurs in the form of chrysotile veins scattered within serpentine (serpentinized harzburgite) appearing in the central part of the range at an altitude of 1 500 meters. The thickness of the veins ranges between just a few millimeters to 2 centimeters.
Cyprus is considered to be one of the oldest asbestos sources and until recently it has been one of the largest chrysotile asbestos producing areas in Europe. Mining and use of asbestos in Cyprus has been carried out since ancient times, and in particular during the Classical and Roman Ages. Asbestos, this fibrous mineral, has been used for making incineration plaques for the dead, shoes, wicks for lamps and for other purposes.
The more recent history of the mine as well as the large scale exploitation of asbestos began when asbestos was being used for the manufacturing of asbestos slates, bricks, heat insulation, pipes, motor vehicle brakes etc. The first mining lease in Cyprus was signed in 1904 in this area and included 600 hectares of land within the state forest of Troodos.
Asbestos mining, during the first decades of the last century, was carried out by primitive means, mainly simple tools and was done manually. This was the period when the largest number of personnel had been employed here. It is said that during the 1930′s the number of people employed at the mine, including those manning various services exceeded 10 000! Around the mine, a small community was created, with people living in houses or temporary dwellings. It was a time when the mine provided more income to the economy than any other single enterprise in the island.
Most people employed at the mine originated from the surrounding villages, there were however people from every corner of the island, in particular people coming from poor areas. The community provided a large and fully equipped hospital, a school, a police station, a cinema, grocery shops, a butchery, coffee shops and in general all commodities found in every small town.
As the years went by, business began to become increasingly mechanized until 1949—50 when a large-scale mechanization in the mining and processing of asbestos was implemented. The annual production of asbestos fibers ranged between 20 000 to 40 000 tons. The number of employees began to decrease and many houses and in particular the temporary ones, were dismantled. Until the end of the operation of the mine, in 1988, mining of asbestos was carried out in an area covering 220 hectares or 2 200 decares. In this stretch the forest was cleared, the soil was removed and every form of natural life wasdestroyed.
It is estimated that during this period a million tons of chrysotile asbestos fibers were mined. In order to carry out this task, 130 million tons of rocks and soil were excavated and moved. It is worth noting that for the transportation of the asbestos to the Limassol port an aerial rope way 30 km long was established and operated until 1942. According to existing records all the quantity of asbestos fibers produced, was exported and sold to various European countries yielding approximately 75.000.000 pounds to the owner company “Cyprus Asbestos Mines Ltd”.
The Cyprus Asbestos Mines operated profitably until 1981. Since 1981 and onwards however, the demand as well as the price for asbestos in the international market plunged due to a worldwide campaign against the use of asbestos which proved to entail serious dangers for human health. Thus, in 1988 the company, which had been granted the mining license, was compelled to terminate its business having in the meantime sustained great financial loss.
Following a decision by the Council of Ministers in 1992, the exploitation license was annulled and two years later the Council of Ministers determined that the mine should be closed down permanently. In addition, it was decided that environmental reclamation works should commence and that the area of the mine should be developed.
The biggest environmental problems created were the complete destruction of the forest, the huge crater in the area of the quarry, the extensive piles of debris placed on steep slopes and in valleys, as well as the pollution of surface waters and dams’ catchments areas with asbestos fibers, with possible effect on public safety and health.
Works for the restoration of the environment commenced in the year 1996 and include stabilization and reclamation of the debris as well as re-vegetation and reforestation. Priority was given to the piles of wastes, which could under certain circumstances impose dangers to the properties situated below the mine. These works are continuing at a steady pace and it is expected that the whole area of the mine will be covered before the year 2015.
For reforestation purposes, 30 different species of plants are being used including, perennial herbs, shrubs and trees. The seed is collected from the surrounding forests the object being to create mixed forest plant communities similar to the natural vegetation of the surrounding area. For reforestation purposes fertile soil shall be required to be transported and laid (around 1,5 million cubic meters for the whole mine area will be required) and this task is not only costly but it requires specialized techniques as well, and the plants require more care. Works are expected to cost many millions of pounds and the funds will be covered by the annual state budget.
In addition to the reclamation works being carried out, the competent state services are considering ways of future development of the mine area for recreation purposes, for tourism and for environmental education. These plans are expected to start being developed when reclamation works are nearly completed.
The cache container can be found at : N 34°(A+B)(A+B).CBB E 032°EE.(F+2)(C-A)D