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MEI Online: General Minerals Engineering: Conference Reports: Cultural Heritage in Geosciences, Mining and Metallurgy


Cultural Heritage in Geosciences, Mining and Metallurgy
Idrija, Slovenia June 17-21, 2002

The Sixth International Symposium on Cultural Heritage was held in the historic mining town of Idrija in the Republic of Slovenia. These series of symposia were initiated by Dr. Peter Schmidt (1939-1999), director of the library of the Mining Academy in Freiberg, Saxony where the first conference was held in 1993. The second conference was held in 1995 in Leoben, Austria, the third in 1997 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and the fourth in Bansca Štiavnica, Slovak Republic (the former Schemnitz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the fifth in Colorado School of Mines in Golden. All these towns are or were important mining towns in the last three centuries and the site of mining schools.

Idrija is located about 40 km to the east of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia. Mercury was discovered there in 1496 and the mine was the second largest mercury mine in the world after the one at Almaden in Spain. During its peak production it employed 1500 miners and had 200 portals. It was in continuous production until 1996 when it was closed due to the decreased demand for mercury. The ore contained visible droplets of native mercury as well as cinnabar the main mercury mineral. In the middle ages, mercury had the importance of petroleum today because it was the only reagent available for extracting gold and fabricating mirrors both were important commodities for the reigning monarchs: the first for minting coins, and the second for decorating the palaces.

The conference started by a reception by the mayor of Idrija in the castle which was constructed in the sixteenth century to house the key administrators of the mine and to guard this strategic mine: now it is a museum. The next two days were devoted to presenting papers which covered a wide range of topics: social, economic, historic, and technical aspects of mining heritage in general and of mercury in particular. It also included a banquet. The third day was devoted to an excursion in the surroundings, and the last half day to papers and the closing ceremony. Participants were about 70 from Austria, Canada, Slovenia, Slovenia, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, and Russia. The conference was organized by the mine administrators and took place in the mine administration building which also includes a historic library. The organizing committee was chaired by Tatjana Dizdarevič who did an excellent job in looking after every detail and editing the extended abstract volume which was available at the conference. A proceedings volume is planned for publication in the next few months. The Seventh Symposium is scheduled to take place in 2003 at Leiden in the Netherlands and will be hosted by Dr. Cor Winkler Prins director of the Natural History Museum in Leiden.

Fathi Habashi, Laval University, Quebec City, Canada, fathi.habashi@gmn.ulaval.ca




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