About the project

Project summary

Idrija Mercury Mine was one of the largest mercury mines in the world. Its rich heritage (buildings, equipment, knowledge) must be preserved for future generations, given new function and content, and suitably presented.

The goal is to preserve this endangered cultural monument of national importance, to revive the heritage with educational and tourism content and to improve tourism opportunities of the area inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Existing condition and justification of the project

Idrija is a city with a 500-year-old mining history. The mercury mine of Idrija was one of the largest and oldest mercury mines in the world, and ore was mined without interruption until 1977. The production of mercury stopped in 1995.

The mine was the driving force for the development of Idrija, and the town prospered thanks to mercury trade. After the mine was closed down, many mining facilities, machines, equipment and documents were preserved along with a wide range of technological experience and know-how.

In this regard, Idrija has made a lot of progress in past years. It has managed to preserve its diverse and unique industrial and technical heritage, which has been promoted and marketed as a regional attraction. Individual buildings were grouped into products that tell the story of the heritage of mercury, which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

One of the crucial parts of the mine that have not yet been renovated and open to visitors is the smelting plant, a national monument that is in danger of losing its protected properties due to its deteriorated state. The area of the monument covers the cableway end-station, the building of the ore separation and crushing plant, the conveyor belts, the collection silo, the rotary furnace, the smoke chamber, smoke pipelines and chimney, and the Špirek-Čermak furnace. All facilities and machines are of significant historical importance to the city. They form an integral part of the uninterrupted 500-year ore-roasting tradition that made Idrija one of the most important mining towns in the world. The area of the smelting plant represents the final phase of the mine’s development. Its facilities and machinery were used until the mine was closed down.

Project goals

With this project, we will be able to preserve a monument of national importance that has been rendered vulnerable by numerous factors and is in danger of losing its protected properties. The first phase of the investment will re-classify the smelting plant area facilities to a museum and a new Visitors’ Centre. After the investment has been carried out, the facilities will be accessible to the public. In addition, the investment will renovate and put on display the machinery of the renovated facilities in a way that will enable the visitors to visualize the role of the machines in the mine’s activities.

The facilities will be enhanced with new content, new educational and tourist programmes as well as activities aimed at different target groups in order to inform the public about the processes involved in mercury ore production and the ecological problems of mercury mining. To increase the physical and visual accessibility of the monument, the visitors will also be granted access to the mine’s databases and archives, and will be able to participate in small-scale mercury experiments in a designated house of experiments. The monument and its content will be accessible to people with disabilities as well, with a lift leading to the ore separation plant. With the adaptation of the museum displays, the needs of people with disabilities will also be taken into account. The project supports intergenerational cooperation and will ensure that the knowledge of former smelting-plant workers is passed on to younger generations by including school generations in the process.

The project includes the cleanup of the smelting plant area. The area has already been partially cleaned up, but traces of mercury are still present in the soil, in ore silos, and on building walls. The first phase of the project will thus include the removal of mercury traces from the environment.