Monday, May 11, 2009

The Copper Mine of Falun, Sweden

Many of us are interested in the unusual. And when it comes to fossils weird is better. Large dinosaurs to small trilobites draw our attention. Petrified people will always get attention.

It is not recorded when mining started in Falun, Sweden but by 1000 AD the copper mine was in full production. By the 1600’s it was the largest producer of copper in the world, supplying 70% of the world's copper demand.

Mining accidents plagued this mine as well as any other. In 1677 a miner was trapped from a cave-in. It took 40 years to recover his body, and when it was found it looked as though he had not aged a day. The dry mine air and vitriol in the water (vitriol means blue death in Latin) kills all germs and bacteria as well as anything else living. These conditions preserved him and he became known as the “petrified miner."

Today this historic town is painted red as it has been for hundreds of years because the mine also has a lot of ocher, and the people of the town used it to tint the paint dating clear back to 1764. Many thought the Swedish flag should have been red and green--the red from this town and green for the lush forests in Sweden.

The underground workings at the mine are so extensive that no one really knows how big the mine is. With 1,000 years of mining it must be amazing. Many of the old areas have collapsed, so there is no way of mapping the mine. Records are insufficient or non-existent, leaving us to our imagination.

The mine closed on 8 December 1992, ending a thousand years of mining! This is the longest worked mine in history.

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