Centro Minerario di Valle Imperina


Useful Information

Location: 32020 Rivamonte Agordino BL.
(46.258297, 12.043245)
Open:
Fee:
Classification: MineCopper Mine MineSilver Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=543 m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Centro Minerario di Valle Imperina, 32020 Rivamonte Agordino BL, Tel: +39-.
Tourist Office of Agordo, Tel: +39-0437-62105. office E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1411 area purchased by the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
1615 mining concession purchased by Francesco Crotta.
1963 a fatal accident in the mine.
1962 mines closed.
1966 flood strikes the Agordino and the Zoldano and destroys many mine buildings.
1982 a planned landfill was avoided by local protests.
1989 purchased by the Municipality of Rivamonte Agordino.
2018 Visitor Center partly destroyed by the flood Vaia.

Geology

The Valsugana Line is an inverse fault which starts in the Province of Trento and passing through Agordino reaches the Cadore area. The hydrothermal activity along this fault created the ore deposits. Such ores are often polymetallic, but here it consists mostly of copper ores.

Description

Centro Minerario di Valle Imperina (Valle Imperina Mining Centre) is located in the Valle Imperina south of Agordo, in the Dolomiti Bellunesi. The mine buildings are at the road to Belluno. They were renovated in the last years and are still not complete, but a first part of the museum was opened to the public. Work is still ongoing. As the name mining center suggests there are various locations, and thematic trails which explore the mining history of the valley, which is said to be the most important mining site of the Dolomites. It was the economic backbone of Venice.

The ancient mining village at the bottom of the valley was reconstructed, the buildings are used for an exhibition. It contains the Val Imperina smelting furnaces which were restored. But it is also a sort of open air museum with numerous other buildings along the Imperina torrent. Highlights are the Pozzo Capitale, the reconstruction of a Rosta di Torrefazione and the entrance to some mining tunnels. There are 16 different buildings like the main storehouses, power plant, stables, charcoal deposit, and powder store. Workshops like blacksmith forge, and infrastructure like houses for miners, offices, hospital, and the villa of the director. And there were of course mining related buildings like smelting furnaces, washing-crushing plant, and the mineral processing plant.

The Visitor Center is located at the Belluno end of the site. It was already completed but was damaged by the 2018 “Vaia” hurricane. The exhibition includes topic like the life of the miners, the pollution produced by the mine, and the production of coal. Here you get tickets, and it is the entrance to the museum. It is also the starting point of the thematic path La Montagna Dimenticata (Forgotten Mountain), which uses the abandoned miner trails.

Copper and bronze were used since pre-Roman times, and the mining here started at a very low scale at this time. The ore was collected in alluvial deposits and probably even mined at the surface at a very low scale. At the moment there is a dispute when mining actually started. Until now, it was believed the first mine were opened in the 16th century, but there are signs that it was earlier. The existence of copper ore was first mentioned in 1411, so most historians tend to assume now, that mining started at this time. At this time the area was purchased by the Serenissima Republic of Venice, and later it produced about 3/5 of the copper needs of Venice, was their biggest copper provider. Archaeological excavations which might add some facts to the speculations are under way.

Venice is located at the sea, in a plain, they knew little or nothing about mines. So they tried to copy the culture and advanced mining science of the Holy Roman Empire, the northern European empire which had numerous successful mining areas, Ore Mountains in Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and France. They recruited miners with highly valued know-how and these moved to this area. Most were from Bohemia and their family names are still typical for the valley. They also brought their mining terminology with them, which was adopted.

Charcoal was used for the smelting, and so the trees of the valley were of great importance. Historic pictures show a valley which is devoid of forests. The forest you can see today are younger, have grown since the furnaces were switched to coke.

The peak of the mining between the 17th and 18th century, when the mines were managed by the Crotta family from Lecco, to whom Venice had contracted the mines. The founder of the family, Francesco Crotta, had privileged relations with the Venetian Republic and was able to purchase the mining concession in 1615. He also won the long battle for the monopoly of the wood of Agordino, he obtained the exclusive rights. He closed most of the existing smelting furnaces because they were competitors, but a bigger furnace was also more profitable than many small ones. And then the gunpowder arrived at the valley and mining was boosted by the use of explosives.

The continuous decline started with the end of the Republic of Venice 1799. The mines passed from the hands of the Crotta family to those of the Manzoni family. Cheap copper was imported from America, and a price battle started. But while the mines became less important, they never closed and were working until the 20th century. The mines were purchased by the Montecatini company and switched to the production of sulphuric acid through the extraction and processing of pyrite. They also modernized the mine and built hydroelectric plants and a private railway line.

At then end there were numerous reasons why the mine finally closed. Small profitability, restrictions on Italian production of raw materials due to the Marshall Plan, the fatal mining accident in 1963 and the flood in 1966. At the time of the flood the mine was already closed, the locals used the demolished mine sites as a source of reconstruction material and cannibalized the sites.