The idea of building a great itinerary in the largest and most representative area of the Historical Environmental Geomining Park of Sardinia, the Sulcis Iglesiente Guspinese, rediscovering the ancient mining paths now largely abandoned, was born by the volunteers of the ONLUS Pozzo Sella Per the Geomining Park following the great participation of citizens in the excursions organized by the same association after having made numerous mining routes usable.
The Pozzo Sella Association was born on November 5, 2001 in the basement of the Pozzo Sella of the Monteponi mine, at the conclusion of the struggle that led to the establishment of the Historical Environmental Geomining Park of Sardinia.
The purpose of the association is to contribute to the development of the Geomining Park, to the valorisation of the abandoned mining areas of Sardinia, to the involvement of young people and also to the identification of job opportunities within the same Park.
With the Santa Barbara Mining Path we want to pursue the objective of handing down the memory of the men who in the past centuries and millennia have built and walked the ancient mining paths with the pleasure of slowly rediscovering the beauty of the area.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Municipalities of Iglesias, Buggerru, Fluminimaggiore, Arbus, Guspini, Gonnosfanadiga, Villacidro, Domusnovas, Musei, Villamassargia. Narcao, Nuxis, Santadi, Piscinas, Giba, Masainas, San Giovanni Suergiu, Sant’Antioco, Carbonia and Gonnesa, the Dioceses of Iglesias and Ales Terralba, the Provinces of Carbonia Iglesias and Medio Campidano, the Consortium of the Historical Environmental Geomining Park of Sardinia, ANCI SARDINIA and the Pozzo Sella Association, a partnership was established for the construction and management of the historical, cultural, environmental and religious itinerary called the ” Santa Barbara Mining Path”.
Thanks to the support of the signatories of the protocol and the contribution, passion and commitment of many volunteers, an extraordinary research and survey work was launched on the ground, which concerned the definition of the itinerary, the interventions necessary for the its recovery (still in progress), the guidelines for the definitive signage and the installation of the temporary one, the inventory of the heritage present along the route, and all that is needed for the organization of a Way.
From the ancient Neolithic (about 6000 BC) up to the present day , the presence of man in the south-western area of Sardinia has been characterized by an intense relationship with the rocks and the subsoil . First to find shelter and give burial, in the natural karst cavities and in the domus de janas , purposely excavated sepulchral structures; later, especially starting from the Nuragic age (1500-800 BC), to extract the precious mineral resources (minerals and metals).
The mining activity has developed over the centuries with ups and downs leaving deep traces in the territory. Among these is the road network , created to ensure the mobility of people and the transport of minerals from the extraction site to the treatment and use site.
Such ancient communication routes include:
These are road structures often forgotten and abandoned to neglect and destruction, which have been identified and mapped by the volunteers of the Pozzo Sella Association with the help and support of the old cartography and the direct testimonies of the miners, living memory of the great function historically performed by these roads, and which today can be rediscovered thanks to the Santa Barbara Mining Path .
Therefore, we do not propose a new itinerary, but ancient paths on which, since the ancient Neolithic, numerous populations of the Mediterranean basin and the European continent have met and walked together.
Around the second millennium BC, the exploitation of lead and silver ore began , excavated along the surface veins of the Iglesiente, Sarrabus and Nurra, where the first foundry workshops were also identified.
In the Nuragic age, the trade of metal ores and their products spread with the other Mediterranean peoples. As evidenced by the famous Nuragic bronzes, around 1000 BC, the local populations had developed solid mining bases and metallurgical skills.
The exploitation of the metal mines continues with the Phoenician-Punic invasion of Sardinia. The traces of the excavations of the time will persist until the mid-nineteenth century, before being erased by the excavations of the modern extractive industry.
In 138 BC, with Rome‘s victory over Carthage, Sardinia passed under Roman rule. The mines are excavated to considerable depths, with the use of more advanced techniques, and slaves and prisoners sentenced to forced labor ad metalla (“in the metal mines”) Rome will found mining cities such as Plumbea and Metalla, and will start the construction of foundry workshops in different areas of the island, but above all in the metal-bearing areas of the Iglesiente. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the mining activity in Sardinia declined and for a long time all traces of it were lost.
It was only in the 12th century that the exploitation of the mines was resumed by the Pisan Count Ugolino della Gherardesca, who made Villa di Chiesa, the current Iglesias, a flourishing mining town, also called the city of silver.
After the end of the lordship of Ugolino, Iglesias and its mines passed, in 1302, under the dominion of the Municipality of Pisa .
A few years later, in 1323, Sardinia was conquered by the Aragonese. The Aragonese considerably reduced the mining activity and used the miners of the Iglesias to open new mines in Catalonia .
In 1720, with the passage of Sardinia to the Savoy , the mines were entrusted to various concessionaires who limited themselves to the exploitation of the richest veins without, however, achieving appreciable results.
In the second half of the 19th century the impetuous advent of the industrial era generated a strong demand for metals; the largest Italian and European companies start an intense exploitation of the Sardinian metal mines, to which coal production is soon added, to support the high energy consumption required by the metallurgical plants.
The growing demand for silver galena and, starting from 1865, also for zinc minerals (calaminari), gave a strong impetus to the opening of the large mines of the Iglesiente and Guspinese (Monteponi, San Giovanni, Nebida, Masua, Ingurtosu and Montevecchio) around which large mining plants are built: excavation of wells, tunnels, washeries, foundries and construction of various services.
At the end of the 19th century, Sardinia supplied Italy with most of its metal requirements, almost all lead (98.7%) and zinc (85%) minerals. The century ended with the participation of some Sardinian mining companies in the Universal Exposition in Paris , and at the beginning of the 20th century the Sardinian mining industry rested on solid foundations, thanks also to the extensive mechanization interventions undertaken in all the mines.
The mining industry of the first half of the 1900s will go through some moments of serious difficulty, which however will always be overcome until the outbreak of the First World War , which will determine the closure of the European markets and a drastic reduction of mining jobs.
Despite the crisis of 1929, the large mines still resist. Furthermore, the autarkic policy pushes the increase of coal extraction, with the opening of the large mine of Serbariu and the foundation of the city of Carbonia in the 1930s.
In the 1950s, production regained its share, reaching heights never reached thanks to the innovation of cultivation methods and the modernization of all plants.
But already in the mid-fifties the effects of the loss of competitiveness of the Sardinian mining industry began to be felt with respect to the European and international markets, to which the price of metals is linked.
In the early ’60s several companies ceased operations, to reach the end of the decade to the definitive withdrawal of private capital which will oblige the State and the Region to intervene more and more massively, until they become the sole managers of the mines.
Despite major research and modernization works in the mining sector, the situation is getting worse and worse, until the closing of the last mines in the mid-nineties of the last century.
The cessation of the traditional mining activity of Sardinia has come after a long agony, which began in the early 60s, and characterized by exhausting union struggles.
In this process, the great heritage of industrial archeology of the mines that were gradually abandoned was completely neglected , causing the loss and destruction of structures , equipment and machinery .
With the emergence of the idea of a Geomining Park as a tool for the conservation and enhancement of this heritage , proposed in the 80s of the last century by some voluntary associations, the importance of this heritage was finally recognized; and thus, starting from the second half of the 90s, the first interventions for the recovery and protection of some underground and surface structures began .
Of significant importance in promoting the establishment of the Geomining Park was the prestigious international recognition of UNESCO promoted by the national government and the Sardinian Region on the proposal of the Sardinian Mining Authority which led in 1998 to the signing of the Cagliari Charter (see attachment). with which the signatories undertook to adopt the necessary deeds for the formal establishment of the Geomining Park.
However, despite the prestigious international recognition of Unesco , the birth of the Geomining Park was very troubled. It was established following a great popular mobilization that supported the peaceful and non-violent struggle that lasted an entire year in the basement of the Monteponi mine in Iglesias. Faced with the inertia of Parliament, the then regional councilor Pietro Pinna, now president of the Foundation, decided to undertake an extreme form of protest with the occupation of Pozzo Sella of the Monteponi mine. Soon after, 500 precarious workers joined the protest , waiting to be stabilized with the birth of the Geomining Park.
The support of a large and extraordinary popular mobilization was decisive for allowing us to resist in the pit for an entire year and for the success of the protest .
Following that struggle, which began on November 5, 2000 and ended on November 6, 2001 in the presence of the Minister of the Environment in the mine, we obtained: