When we think of a mine we could imagine the Seven Dwarfs of Disney that extract rubies, topaz and diamonds. In the Streppenosa mine every glint is related to water and karst. Water diamonds are hanging from stalactites, large yellow reddish concretions testifying to the iron content in the rock. But black is the predominant element of the mine, and certainly is not due to the total darkness that prevails there.
The Streppenosa mine is in fact one of the asphalt mines of the Plateau Ibleo’s most characteristic mining district; a mine abandoned for 100 years in which the strong calcareous composition of the rock, the neotectonic structure and the presence of oil in the ground have created a fantastic mix. Not easy to find an environment in Europe as interesting as this.
In Italy the asphalt has been an important economic resource in only two sites: Ragusa and in the Abruzzo Majella district. The focus for the stone pitch in the Ragusa area dates since the greek period, but the most interesting artifacts are those made during the reconstruction after the earthquake of 1693. Stone pitch floors, columns, capitals, baptismal and holy water sources, tombstones are found in every corner of the Ibleo Baroque district which is recognized by UNESCO as World heritage Site.
But the asphalt of this mine was used to something else. In the eighteenth century became common in Europe the use of a granulate material to be spread on the main roads to avoid mud and dust. On the outskirts of Ragusa, in the Tabuna district, the first companies (French and English) began the exploitation of the “stone pitch” in 1865 and only 20 years later the brothers Kopp, from Germany, were mining this limestone impregnated with oil at this location not far from Modica. With bitumen from Streppenosa, transported to Germany by sea with large merchant ships, was asphalted Berlin.
In 1914, at the height of production, the mines are abandoned, seized and nationalized, because Germany was the enemy of the Italians in the First World War. From that moment begins the natural process which continues even today due to the action of water and of mineral oil gushing from the rock and flowing into small pools.
Today’s guests of the Streppenosa mine were twenty Norwegian geologists of the company Concedo of Norway (www.concedo.no), a services company that operates in the offshore of Northern Europe. They were accompanied by geologists of the Earth Sciences Section of the Catania University, Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences of prof. Catalan. The visit was organized with Max Melli, geologist of international experience and a great student of the geology of the Ragusa District.
For these Norwegian geologists the Iblei Mountains were an adventure, but also a laboratory to create parallels with the Geological History of their countries of origin. Today, for the first time, they could enter into the bowels of the mountain and see from close up the oil that flows from limestone and soaks the rock.
This was a unique experience for petroleum geologists, that normally are restricting their study to maps and seismic profiles, because it allowed them to enter into an oil field and to observe it from the inside.

Silvio Cassarino

geologist and Manager at the Superintendency of Ragusa

Yes in Sicily wants to exploit the resources of our territory in order to attract the interest of tourists but also to promote the study and comparison of different cultures.
At the end of August 2016, it has scheduled an exclusive visit to the Ragusa mines and to the sites where that stone pitch extracted from the mines has been utilized in baroque architecture.
It will be an adventure into the past during a weekend, accompanied by speleologists, hiking experts and archaeologists to the discovery of the stone that made Ragusa and its baroque.
Cooming soon on www.yesinsicily.com

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