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The Mines and Minerals of Lavrion - Geographical Information

Last Updated: 10th Aug 2018

By Branko Rieck

Geographical Information

The mining district of Lavrion is located on the Attica peninsula, 50 km southeast of Athens. Mining activities are found throughout an area of 190 square kilometers. The most prominent site on the Attica peninsula is the ancient temple of Poseidon, built 440 BC in the Doric style, at its southernmost point, Cape Sounion, a tourist attraction visited by busloads of travelers.

Most visitors to Lavrion will use the (mostly 4-lane) road running from Athens via the International Eleftherios Venizelos Airport to Lavrion. From the Airport on, this road is toll-free, whereas the way into Athens requires a small fee to be paid.
Also, a well-marked and maintained road leads from Athens through the towns of Vouliagmeni, Lagonisi and Anavyssos to Sounion, following the coast. From there a smaller road continues to Lavrion, and the northern part of the peninsula.
The Attica peninsula is a hilly area, the highest elevation is 364 m characterized by scrubby bushes and pine forests which are replanted with great effort but are often devastated by wood fires. Strips of land are kept with only sparse vegetation in order to contain wood fires more easily. In ancient times most of the woods were cut for shipbuilding, construction work and fuel for fire. In addition, the average temperature in the Middle Age was higher than today, which made replanting of the woods impossible. Like most parts of the Mediterranean area, the lack of water clearly marks the appearance of the landscape.
Remains of human activity are also found on some of the small islands to the south and east of the coast. There are also some tunnels and shafts found there, bearing evidence that the orebodies have formed further south than the current shoreline.
The town of Lavrion itself has decreased in its importance as commercial harbor, mining and industrial center since the end of active mining in the area. Efforts have been undertaken to revitalize the industry on the Attica peninsula. Since 1982 a large power plant supplies energy to the Greek capital and the EU supported project of the Lavrion Industrial Park seeks to attract new investors to this location.
A number of small hotels and private rooms offer accommodation, some of which have specialized to house collectors, with the staff not fainting at the sight of mud-smeared and dusty rock-hunters coming back from an excursion. Lavrion has become an interesting starting point for sailing through the Aegean Sea, with prices much lower at the local marina than at the main port of Piraeus, close to Athens.

Access to the mines in the area is mostly on gravel roads in different stages of disrepair, leading off small one-lane roads that crisscross the entire peninsula. The official policy that generally forbids access to the mines both for Greek and foreign collectors makes maintenance of these roads unnecessary. Some are therefore already in such a condition that driving is no longer possible. For example, the access road to the Maria mine is now only passable on foot.

Walking on foot however is not a bad thing in this area as you might want to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of a little paradise that is now a nature reserve. A large part of the Lavrion Mining District is within the bounds of the National Park of Sounio (Εθνικός Δρυμός Σουνίου) which was founded in 1971. This State Park comprises about 40 square kilometers of the typical Mediterranean landscape.

The three main types of Mediterranean ecosystems of the country can be discerned:
• the dominating Aleppo Pine forest (pinus halepensis) being one of the best preserved in mainland Attica,
• maquis (continental and seaside) with the signature plant the holm-oak (querqus coccifera),
• and brushland.
The yellow-flowered knapweeds centaurea laureotica and centaurea attica asperula, as well as the orchid ophrys umbilicata attica were first recognized in the area that is now the National Park of Sounio. Strolling around at the right time one will not only see the remains of ancient and modern mining, but also ample – and sometimes exceedingly rare – vegetation.
If you decide to hike please be aware of the fact that the environment - and that includes all sites of mineralogical interest - is especially protected within the bounds of the National Park of Sounio.

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