History of Mining
The Origins of Metal Mining
Region of Eastern Serbia
The origins of metal mining in Eastern Serbia region are linked to Rudna Glava site and the early 5th and late 6th millennium BC (5 400 BC – 4 600 BC). Rudna Glava site is the oldest known copper mine in Europe and in the world and, as a part of Vinca culture, can be considered as an origin of the Copper age. It is interesting to mention that traces of mining activities, especially of malachite extraction, at the site date back to the late 7th millennium BC but not for metallurgical purposes but rather for jewelry. Copper mining at Rudna Glava, at various intensities, lasted until the end of the Vinca culture in the late 5th millennium BC. Archaeological exploration indicate that copper mining at Rudna Glava was continued during a short period in the early third millennium BC (2 910 BC – 2 880BC).
The latest archaeological findings, especially of metallurgical slags, and the present exploration confirm the existence of other mining and metallurgy sites as Coka Kazak, Trnjane, Kucajna and others in the vicinity of Bor and Majdanpek dating back to the late 2nd millennium (1 300 BC – 1 100 BC).
There are no archaeological confirmation of mining or metallurgical activities in this region during the period between 2nd millennium BC and 3rd century AD. Traces of Roman mining and metallurgical activities on iron, copper and gold extraction and processing were dated back to the 3rd, 4th and the 5th century AD. There is a number of fortified settlements at Rudna Glava site (iron), Kraku lu Jordan and Bukova glava (gold) near Majdanpek (3rd – 5th century AD) as well as Tilva Ros and Markov kamen near Bor with traces of gold and iron metallurgy. The Romans also exploited gold from alluvial sediments of Pek and Timok proven by the remains of fortified settlements Aeliana Pincensia and Timacium Minus.
Despite the fact that the power and wealth of medieval Serbia emerged due to mining activities and rich silver mines there are no data which would indicate the existence of active mines in this area at that time. However, after the Serbia fell under the Ottoman Empire the mine and the mint were established in Kucajna and the mine was opened in Majdanpek.
The origins of modern mining in the area are linked to the 19th century AD and the arrival of Baron Herder to Serbia upon invitation of Knez Milos. Baron Herder indicated the potentials of ore appearances in Bor and Majdanpek surroundings. At the time, Kucajna and Majdanpek are still periodically active.
Following the invitation sent to him by Knez Mihailo the mining expert Felix Hoffmann came to Serbia and opened up the Blagojev Kamen mine. He conducted extensive geological exploration of the area. Upon his recommendation, Serbian industrialist Georg Weifert started his own exploration at the area of where the town of Bor presently sits, and sent for his expert, Franjo Sistek. At the end of 19th century Franjo Sistek intensified his exploration activities at Coka Dulkan, Tilva Mika i Tilva Ros sites where he discovered the traces of Roman mining. In 1902 at the Coka Dulkan, Franjo Sistek discovered rich copper ore. Immediately after in 1903, Georg Weifert provided the concessions for 240 ore fields granting him fifty years of exploitation rights. Unable to fund the operations Georg Weifert addressed french investors and with their support established ”The French society of Bor mines, Concession St. George” (“La Compagnie Francaise des Mines de Bor, Concesion St. George”).
The French investment capital remained in Bor mine until the WWII when, during 1941 the Third Reich took over governance of the Mine.
Since liberation in 1944, the mine (renamed RTB Bor in 1961) has operated under state ownership.
First ten years after World War II, Bor is rebuilding its processing capacities, introducing highly productive and modern technology and striving to achieve the pre-war production. The hoist shaft is constructed in the period between 1945 and 1956, the flotation expanded from 2.000 to 4.000 tonnes of ore per day, and after a while reached 7.000 tonnes of ore per day.
That is how Bor achieved its highest pre-war production in 1950, by producing 40.000 tonnes of anode copper. In 1957, ore reserves reached 42 million tonnes of verified reserves and 30 million tonnes of off-balance sheet reserves, but with an average 1.2 percent of copper in ore. The mines in the entire world are excavating the ore below this percentage in that time. This turnover is confirmed in the program of the First phase of reconstruction and expansion of the capacities for producing copper and chemical products.
In the following years, due to the insufficient investments in mining, the production in Bor starts to decrease. Fearing the unprofitability, the management speed up the development of the Second phase program. The Second phase is marked by major investing in the production and processing capacities.
The extraordinary accomplishments and courageous actions, conducted with a purpose to maintain the production level and to decrease the expenses of the production, marked the second half of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties.
A very difficult period of international isolation occurs after that. This period has a severe impact on entire economy and on mining in Bor as well. Very low level of investment in equipment reflects in the production results and constant debts piling up.
Source information are listed below:
| W O'Brien, PREHISTORIC COPPER MINING IN EUROPE: 5500-500 BC, Oxford University Press, 2015;
| D. Zivković, N. Strbac, M. Vuksan, V. Trujic, M. Cocic, V. Andric, ASPECTS OF METALLURGICAL ACTIVITIES AT SITE COKA KAZAK (TIMOK REGION, EASTERN SERBIA), Metalurgija - Journal of metallurgy 12 (2-3), (2006), 165-172;
| D. Antonovic, PREHISTORIC COPPER TOOLS FROM THE TERRITORY OF SERBIA, Journal of Mining and Metallurgy 45 (2) B, (2009), 165 – 174;
| B. Jovanovic, BEGINNING OF THE METAL AGE IN THE CENTRAL BALKANS ACCORDING TO THE RESULTS OF THE ARCHEOMETALLURGY, Journal of Mining and Metallurgy 45 (2) B, (2009), 143-148;
| S. Petkovic, THE TRACES OF ROMAN METALLURGY IN EASTERN SERBIA, Journal of Mining and Metallurgy 45 (2) B, (2009), 187 – 196;
| A. M. Hirt, IMPERIAL MINES AND QUARRIES IN THE ROMAN WORLD: ORGANIZATIONAL ASPECTS 27 BC - AD235, Oxford University Press, 2010;
| S. Katic, I. Ilic, D. Zivković, COPPER PRODUCTION IN MAJDANPEK IN SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES OF THE 16TH CENTURY, Journal of Mining and Metallurgy 45 (2) B (2009);
| N. Anzel, MINING IN MEDIEVAL EAST SERBIA (14TH to 16th C entury), Mining engieering (2-3), (2013), 7 – 13;
| Bozin Jovanovic, Privreda Timocke krajine, 1995.