Though not particularly old, the rusted structures at these two abandoned mines stand like the modern ghosts of the 6,000-year-old copper industry in Cyprus.
Cyprus’ mining history began around 4,000 BC with the production of copper. The people who lived on the island thousands of years ago were incredibly skilled metalworkers. The lucrative orange metal (cuprum in Latin) was even named after the Greek name for Cyprus (Kúpros). During the Roman era, the metal extracted from the earth there were able to satisfy nearly all of the empire’s copper requirements.
When the Roman Empire fell, the mining industry also ground to a halt. The industry remained dormant up until the 19th century, when Great Britain colonized the island and revived the mines. But as it turns out, for many of the reopened (and newly opened) mines their resurrections were short-lived. A combination of environmental issues, falling prices, political turmoil, and resource exhaustion caused a number of the mines to close once again.
The abandoned Kokkinopezoula and Kokkinoyia mines near the village of Mitsero offer up-close looks at the island’s historic industry. Both are part of a UNESCO Geopark. At the Kokkinopezoula mine, scarred tiers of earth descend toward a lake with a strange red hue. At the Kokkinoyia mine, visitors can see parts of a railway line and a portion of one of the tunnels. A poignant poem by Kostas Montis is engraved on a stone at its entrance, which roughly translated reads:
“The mine … where the man of the sun and wind, crawls like the worm to find or not find again the hole open that will take him back to life … the mine that became a curse and accusation, legend and history. This that theater and cinema the novel and the song have made spider webs around its dark existence.”