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Industrial Heritage & Mining in Sardinia

Sardinia’s rich history of mining dates back thousands of years to the Stone Age, with the island boasting abundant mineral deposits such as lead, zinc, silver, and copper. The mining industry has played a pivotal role in shaping the island’s economy and culture, with mines and quarries becoming a defining feature of its landscape and identity since the pre-Roman era. The exploitation of Sardinia’s mineral wealth fueled industrial growth and provided vital resources for trade, but also posed significant social and environmental challenges. Today, the legacy of mining can still be seen across the island, with the Geomineral, Historical, and Environmental Park of Sardinia standing as the world’s first geomineral park to be recognized by UNESCO.

A Brief History of Mining in Sardinia

A display at the National Archaeological Museum in Cagliari about bronze production in the Nuragic era.
Bronze Figurines National Museum Cagliari
A collection of Nuragic bronze figurines that the Nuragic people are well known for. National Archaeological Museum, Cagliari.

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Historic, Abandoned Mines in Sardinia

Masua Mine

Part of the the Geological Mining Park of Sardinia, Masua Mine has been operational since the 17th century. Mineral extraction here reached its peak in the mid 19th century when there were around 700 workers living on site. The abandoned and now ruined mining village on a steep slope of a mountain still has remnants of the school, hospital, church and houses. The onsite museum houses over 70 machines as well as other tools and equipment used by the miners. From the 1960s mining activity in the area started to decline, and the mine eventually closed in the 1990s.

Monteponi Mine

On the outskirts of Iglesias are the abandoned remains of one of Sardinia’s most important producers of lead, zinc and silver. Extraction of minerals started at Monteponi mine in the 14th century, but it was not until a concession was granted in June of 1850 that modern mining commenced here. Mining took place until the mine’s closure in 1992. Part of the sprawling site is open to the public. Visitors can take guided tours of the Galleria Villamarina – an underground tunnel that is connected to the two entrances of the mine, the Pozzo Vittorio Emanuele and Pozzo Sella. These two shafts were used for the transfer of extracted rock and miners.

Montevecchio Mine

One of eight sites that make up the UNESCO recognised Geomineral Park of Sardinia, the site of the Montevecchio Mine is a popular tourist attraction. A number of routes have been set up that allow visitors to explore all aspects of this once thriving mining community. From the humble cottages where the workers lived to the luxurious offices that accommodated the mine’s management. As well as the various points at which the mechanical and technical activities were undertaken, from extracting the rock to producing a product ready to be forged. It is only possible to explore this abandoned mine by taking a guided tour.

Nebida Mine

Besides the spectacular views over an idyllic stretch of Sardinian coastline, the Nebida Mine is known for its majestic architecture. The most important feature of this site is the Laveria La Marmora – a highly sophisticated extraction plant. The ore extracted from the nearby mine was ‘washed’ to produce the lead and zinc mineral that was then shipped to foundries around Europe. The plant was built in 1897 and was active until the 1970s, with work interrupted by the two world wars. The mine and the town were then both abandoned. These ruins are included in the Geological Mining Park of Sardinia.

Porta Flavia

Between 1922 and 1924 a 600 m tunnel was dug that opened out in a seaward cliff face. The idea was to be able to transport the minerals dug in the nearby Masua mine and load them directly on to the ships bound for foundries in other parts of Europe. Until then, mineral was loaded by hand on to small boats and taken to the nearby port of Carloforte. Today visitors can take a guided tour (offered in both English and Italian) of the tunnels – which involves a climb of 110 steps.

Rosas Mine & Museum

In the middle of an oak forest are the abandoned remains of one of the first official mines in Sardinia; now part of the Historical and Environmental Geology and Mining Park of Sardinia. Although there has been mining activity in the area from prehistoric times through to the middle ages, this zinc and lead mine was active from the mid-19th century to the 1980s. Now an open-air museum showing the various parts of a mining village. From the tunnels and mining plants to the lodgings used by workers, the various features retrace the history of the mine. A fully functional mill once used for processing minerals is now the home of a multimedia industrial archaeology museum.

Serbariu Coal Mines Museum

The Sulcis area, which has always been rich in mineral resources, saw the birth of mines during some soundings carried out in 1936, which located a large coal deposit. More than 100 Km of tunnels developed up to 103 m below sea level, which led it to become one of Italy’s most important energy resources in the mid-20th century. The Museum located above the mines not only tells the history of the site and the different activities, but also displays the equipment and tools that were used by the miners. It is also possible to visit part of the underground gallery, where the original rooms are meticulously reconstructed.

Industrial Heritage Museums in Sardinia

Museum of Coal in Carbonia

What was the lamp room of the Sebariu coal mine has ben converted into a museum. An extensive permanent exhibition fills this vast industrial space. A series of displays tells the history of coal, as well as the story of the mine and the social impact it had on the town of Carbonia. Theer are many artefacts on display, such as the mine lamps, tools and everyday objects associated with the day to day activities of the miners. These objects are supplemented with photographs, historic documents, period film footage as well as video interviews with some of the miners who worked at the mine. Visitors can take an hour-long guided tour of the underground tunnels and the winch room.