THE DEEPEST MINE FROM ROMANIA (1874)
The tower of the extraction machine at the 1st (first) pit, a testimony of the existence of mining in Anina for the last 214 years. It will become part of the mining museum.
At Pit I Villa the tourists, eager to see what it was like in a coal mine, will experience a real sensation: they will go down in the depths with the cage and, equipped in mining coat, will walk with the mineral lamp on a “horizon “till the abetement.
It is said that human life is worth nothing, but nothing is worth a human life. It is a game of words from which only the traveller who comes to Anina can understand more. Here, in the Anina Mountains, nature hid the “black stone” – the pit coal, the best-quality coal, and let the man to toil very hard for bringing it to the surface. For that, however, it regularly asked for its tribute and took as many lives as many levels were dug. The Anina Coal mine was the deepest mine in the Southeast of Europe, 1240 m deep, and by January 14th 2006 there were more than 1,200 deaths recorded in mine accidents.
Until 2006, the mine was the soul of Anina. Everything was spinning around it, and people, though working very hard, were pleased to have a job ensuring them a loaf of bread for themselves and their families. Now, when everything is in standstill, we try to rediscover “a world without heaven” [Birou V., 1982] looking for “GOOD LUCK” in … the industrial tourism and mountain tourism
We can put our imagination to work and, in the place where the First Pit Extraction House lies today, after the “greening” of the area, a mining museum integrated into the “resort” of Banat Aurora will be settled in the industrial architecture building, in order to attract tourists from the country and abroad, eager to see what a coal mine looked like, how they could get down with the cage, how it is when they are equipped with mining clothes and the sensation you can experience when you walk on the “horizon” with the mine lamp or with the ore removal wagon.
Until then, we will try to tell you the story through images and words from the scene and to rediscover “the way it was …”
Once you arrive at Anina, either by car from Resita to Anina on the national road DN 58 (36 km) or by train, on the old and beautiful mountain railway in Romania, Oraviţa – Anina (33.4 km), go alongside the railroad until the silhouette of the First Pit Extraction Tower – which you can see in the distance – appears in full size in front of you.
The Pit’s Villa can be the reception hall for the tourists where they will actually put on the mining clothes, they will receive the lamps and then they will be directed to the starting point heading to the “core of the earth”, but only to one tenth of the depth to a “horizon”. There, tourists will travel with the 3D “smart-wagon” into the past …
It was in 1773 when, in the quasi virgin forests of the Anina Mountains, which were rarely trampled by the villagers or the Craşoveans, 34 families of coal makers and wood cutters were brought to produce wood coal for the Resita factories. Most of the settlers came from Styria, a land officially called today Steiermark from Austria, hence the name Steierdorf, that is, the village of Styrians or of the “Steiers”.
The life of the little community went on smoothly; the settlers were working in the woods and, in their spare time, they would cut a beech to enlarge their yards.
Everything changed in 1790 when one of the woodcutters, Mathias Hammer, discovered in the Porcarul Valley, near the Andrei’s creek (today, Sigismund), “a black, glowing stone that he takes to the Mining Mountaineering Division from Oravita and for which he receives 50 florins. “[Mosoroceanu CL., 2012].
The news produces a “big bang” and travelled quickly from the Mountainous Banat to Vienna. The coal of Anina – Steierdorf was studied and the “black stone” proved to be a hard coal of the highest – quality from Europe. Since that moment, waves of settlers had come from Slovakia (Germans and Slovaks), Spiess / Zips, Bohemia (German Pems) and other parts of Austria. In 1792 mining began in Anina, which had its rise and fall until 1990, when the beginning of the end followed. With the last race of the extraction machine, the activity ceased permanently on December 30th 2006, after 214 years of mining.
The First Pit’s Industrial Site of Anina has its own history, with important moments of reference for the mining in Mountainous Banat:
On March 24th the First Pit’s excavation begins with vertical extraction, at a depth of 570 m, to the northern boundary of the Anina coal’s deposit. During its existence it had several names: Hungaria, Ferdinand, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Principal.
The second extraction machine is brought, a locomotive manufactured in Resita, with a capacity of 380 hp, bcause in October 1874 the first extraction machine was installed in the “Hungaria” shaft.
In September the millstone of the extraction tower is mounted.
Open-flame caving lamps are replaced by kerosene lanterns.
The steam extraction machine is mounted, built in 1909 by the Lang company in Budapest, and will be put into operation in 1912.
As a result of the commencement of World War I, the dynamite is stored underground at the level of the third horizon of the pit, in a pump station.
On June 7th the largest mining catastrophe occurs in Romania, with 217 deaths, due to the explosion of the underground warehouse inaugurated in 1915.
King Ferdinand and Queen Maria visit Anina, after this event the First Pit receives the name of “Ferdinand”.
The safety gasoline lanterns are changed by the electric lamps with batteries and guided beam.
Prince Mihai visits Anina.
The VI horizon is opened.
The first pit is named “Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej” and the 7th horizon.
Anina acquires the status of town.
The capital repair of the pit is started through masonry works that has lasted for 3 years
The Anina Mining Company is formed, and the pit is named “Principal”.
It is the year when the bituminous shale-fired power plant – the failure of the golden age – is put into operation in the Crivina area; – after only four years it will be stopped.
After the deepening of the pit at the horizon VIII, the steam extraction machine (74 years of operation!) is replaced by the electrically driven extraction machine. The change has come after the extraction cable broke in 1984 due to the mismanagement of the cages.
The mining extraction of coal is under transition and recession.
The First Pit of the Coal Mine from Anina closes as a result of the accident happening on the 14th January, when seven miners died and five others were injured. On March 14th the last 64 carriages with coal are coming out, and the last man who reached the horizon VIII (- 900 m) came out on St. Nicholas day (December 6th). On December 30th 2006, all the activity ended permanently at the First Pit.
The first pit was of vertical extraction of coal. It was used for going down to the gallery by cage, as Virgil Birou remembers wonderfully: “We were wearing mining gear. In the yard, the engineer stopped at a window, took out the mineral lanterns and started to the pit. A 4 x 4 meter black hole, surrounded by a grid. Above it the complicated construction of the metal tower. Two cables were ripping down from the top of the tower. One raises up the cage with the full wagons, the other lowers the empty ones. Cables slowed down the chase and when the cage’s bottom reached the ground level, everything stopped. A mechanical device pushed the coal wagons onto the rails, from where they went to division. The extraction machine was built for a depth of one thousand meters. But we were going to 820 meters. That’s where the coal was being extracted. We get into the cage. Then the engineer came, pulled the grille and a bell rang for four times. It’s a signal for the engineer not to leave the cage at speeds of more than 12 meters per second. That’s the speed at which people get down. A jerk and we dove into the darkness. In turn, first the knees, then the waist and finally the shoulders. The cage has a safety device catching it to the leading rails in case the cable breaks. As we descended, a grey light lit the walls of the pit on which a lot of things had been fixed, water pipes, air ducts, lead-packed cables, blinkers and stairs from the bottom of the earth up to the surface. In the light of the charge station, the cage stopped. Black silhouettes opened the well grille and the cage’s door. Miners’ greetings are heard: Good luck! So help us God. A little dazed I stepped into the gallery. The safety of the step on solid ground, instead of the pendulum of the cage makes me dizzy. It took a while before I recollected my strength. “[Birou V., 1982].
It is the right description that a guide can make for all the tourists who will descend with a refurbished cage into the small model mine. At less than 10 m deep a gallery will open with stope and ascension. Everything will have the appearance of a true mine gallery with ventilation fans, mini installations for water evacuation conducted in waterfall, based on the traditional principle of “heavy hoof” and one or two cages for cops or canaries for controlling mine gases, especially the methane. Tourists will take a short walk with a coal transport wagon and experience the ore loading with the barter or hont, from the front to the roller, then to the wagon and finally to the cage. They will also see the magic man’s “fire,” or they will get “blackened with coal” getting up on the ascension.
With the face darkened by charcoal, from which only the eyes are sparkling, the tourists will sit on a bunch of coal next to three miners, naked to the waist, they will eat “bacon with onion and cornbread” and they will drink from a coal blackened “water jug”, in the dim light of the “mine lamps”. Around them there is a pneumatic hammer, a wedge, a sledge hammer, a grizzometer, a wheelbarrow, barter, and a hunt. And the story can go on …
At every 100 m depth of the 1st Pit the horizontal galleries were branching out. These were called levels or “horizons”. Horizon V was 500 m deep. Horizon VIII was over 800 m deep.
The miner’s weapon was the lamp. It led him in his paths; it showed him if there was gas in the mine. Without it he would not have been able to reach the final destination in the case he got lost. The mine lamp illuminated the miner’s path on the gallery, on the stairs and then in the mine level. In the line of work, a miner lifted the pneumatic hammer and struck it with all the weight of his body into the coal wall. Another miner broke a big ore with the sledge hammer. Another filled the wheelbarrow with charcoal and led it along the planking path from the stope to the roller, where the coal was overturned in the waiting carriage below the mouth of the roller, near the ascension. From here, the wagon was taken to the main gallery, where the train was formed, and where the compressed – air locomotive led them to the pit loading station. Four wagons were loaded in the cage and raised to the surface.
“For the underground transport of the ore from the front of the line to the roller or the wagon first the “truckage / troc” was used and later the “hont”. The “truckage / troc” was made of twigs, then it was made of wood and, finally, of sheet metal. The “hont” was a small manually-operated wagon used to this day. Wagon runways have been upgraded from wood rails to iron ones and compressed – air locomotives have been gradually replaced by gasoline then battery – electric locomotives and finally, by the flameproof Diesel Mining locomotives. [Mosoroceanu C-L., 2012].
Fresh air enters the entire mine through the pit. At first, when the mines were not deep and so branched, the ventilation was assured naturally by creating an atmospheric depression resulting from the level difference between two mine holes. Artificial ventilation was then used through airshaft facilities and air tubes.
A mine always gathers water from the underground springs. For its evacuation, “the first water-pumping plant in the mine was the one that operated on the principle of the heavy rod, with pumps arranged in steps.” [Mosoroceanu C-L., 2012].
Upon entering the mine, “The miners have always worn the shirt of death” – according to the famous proverb of the German miners from Anina – Steierdorf. There were two great ever –present dangers: the earth pressure and the mine gases.
“When a new gallery opens in the virgin rocks, the water and the air fluff the rock, and the enormous pressure – 800 meters above the mountain – pushes it into the gallery like a mush. (…) the pressure produces unpleasant surprises and closes the gallery and traps people underground. “[Birou V., 1982].
“In the coal mines, it is necessary to maintain in the underground an atmosphere as close as possible to that of surface air through the control of toxic and explosive gases. Over the past two centuries of mining, the control of methane, released from the layers of coal that was toxic and formed the detonating firedamp, the most dangerous method was the one practiced by the “man of flames”. He entered the mine with a torch lit before the commencement of the shift, protected only by clothes and a hood of leather or felt. The odourless and tasteless methane, being lighter than the air, rose to the ceiling of the galleries. While he was crawling on the floor, the blazing flame was burning bove him until all the methane was consumed. For their safety, the miners of Steierdorf-Anina entered the mine for a long time with a canary or goldfinch kept in a cage. In the working front, the cage was fixed as close as possible to the ceiling, and when the birds began to give signs of asphyxiation, the miners quickly left the workplace. The sensitivity of these birds saved the lives of many miners. There was at least one cage with these birds in every house and the secret of their capture was well guarded; with natural glue which was removed afterwards from their feet with warm water. “[Mosoroceanu C., 2012].
After the adventure through the museum mine, tourists will come out into the light of day and, on their return, they will be welcomed to the Mining Brass Band dressed in 29-button mining parade uniforms, in the exhibition hall, set up in 1865. Next to the guild’s flag they can read the two unique Anina Miners’ Prayers, which “Steierdorf-Anina mining generations, regardless of religion, recited in front of the St. Barbara (Varvara) icon every time before entering the mine.” [Mosoroceanu C-L., 2012]. They will be able to see pictures and photos from the history of the Anina coal mine.
After so much effort, they will stop at the dining tables in the First Pit Restaurant and on their departure they will be able to buy some souvenirs. From the First Pit, the tourists will head for the future recreation area reminding everyone that, there has been a tourist resort called Sommerfrische or Aurora Banat ever since 1893.