While most of the coal mines in the Karviná region are closing down, miners on the other side of the Moravian-Silesian region may be soon returning underground. There are many abandoned slate mines around Opava and with growing demand for the precious raw material, investors would like to resume its mining.
Slate mining in the Moravian-Silesian Region saw its greatest boom during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Slate was used on the roofs of the most important buildings in Vienna and Prague, including the National Theatre. However, due to the cost and complicated technology, most slate mines gradually closed down.
Today, slate is mostly imported and it is chiefly used in reconstruction of historical buildings. However, in recent years there has been a growing demand for the raw material also in newly constructed buildings, thanks to its durability and attractive appearance.
Slate is primarily used for roofing and flooring, as it absorbs minimal moisture and stands up well in contact with freezing water. But the mineral is also employed for making electric panels and switch boxes, as it is a good insulator of electricity.
The Opava district, namely the area around the towns of Vítkov and Budišov nad Budišovkou, boasts the largest deposits of high-quality splittable slate in Central Europe and there are many abandoned slate mines in the area.
Petr Welser is the head of the company Premiot, which plans to resume mining in one of the local mines:
“The first phase includes the reconstruction of the Lhotecká shaft, which has already got underway. First of all, it means targeted ventilation of the mine. We are also planning to renew the mine in Těchanovice. Our aim is to equip the shaft with modern technology.”
Unlike in the era of Austro-Hungarian Empire, the slate wouldn’t be extracted by using explosives, says Mr Welser:
“We will extract whole blocks of slate using cutting devices and it will be subsequently processed above the ground. We would like to launch the mining process at the start of next year.”
Patrik Schramm, the mayor of Budišov nad Budišovkou, which is also surrounded by abandoned slate mines, says their renewal presents a challenge for the whole region:
“We would definitely welcome the renewal of slate mining, because it would bring new job opportunities for the region. We already have a museum, but this way, people could see with their own eyes how slate is extracted.”
Apart from the slate museum, the town of Budišov nad Budišovkou also has a nature trail dedicated to slate mining.
Tourists in the Moravian Silesian Region can also visit two abandoned slate mines, the Raab Gallery and the Flashar Slate Mine, close to the town of Nový Jičín.