THE SITARJEVEC MINE SERVES AS AN OUTDOOR CLASSROOM FOR NATURAL SCIENCES and HISTORY.
It arouses curiosity and offers a unique experience, while at the same time awakening awareness and affirming the values of our heritage, which is becoming world-renowned.
60 DIFFERENT TYPES OF MINERALS.
The Sitarjevec mine is one of the richest sources of minerals in Europe and other parts of the world. One of the most beautiful properties of minerals is their lustre in a wide array of colours, which is caused by the refraction of light on their surface. We found more than 60 different types of minerals and you can see the splendour of some of them displayed in the part of the mine that is opened for tourists. The most famous are crystals of cinnabar, cerussite, native lead, copper and mercury.
The Sitarjevec mine is widely known for its exceptional limonite dripstone structures, which grow at a high speed in the abandoned mine shafts. Under favourable conditions, such as the constant inflow of mineral-enriched cave water, temperature, humidity and balanced microflora, stalactites grow up to 5 cm per year. The colourfulness and picturesqueness of the mine tunnels are complemented by yellow limonite mud, which is an excellent natural pigment.
LESSER HORSESHOE BAT – RHINOLOPHUS HIPPOSIDEROS
Bats are the only mammals that have the ability to fly. There are more than 1000 species in the world and 30 in Slovenia. The Sitarjevec mine is home to the small horseshoe bat, a protected species named after their horseshoe-shaped mouth. They are very small (3-5 cm) and weigh up to 10 grams. They are extraordinary not only because of their ability to fly, but also because of the way they orient themselves in space with the help of inaudible ultrasound, which also helps them when hunting. Another way in which they are special is because they hibernate – similarly to bears, they sleep through the winter. The mine has always been their residence of choice. They go through the trapdoor at night to hunt for mosquitoes and other insects, thus ensuring the right balance in nature. Towards the morning they return to the cave and spend the day sleeping in the more peaceful and hidden corners of the mine.
The extraction of ore in the area of Sitarjevec dates back to the distant past. Archaeological sites in the nearby vicinity indicate that mining was already present in Litija approximately 4000 years ago. Remains of dwellings and slag from this period were found in the area of today’s Litija Primary School, and remains of a settlement from the Late Iron Age were found on the Sitarjevec hill (448 m). From the top of the Sitarjevec hill you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Sava River, where once stood an important traffic route, ideal for the development of mining in this area. This route was already used by the Romans, who were the first to start digging underground.
The mine has been operating since the Middle Ages. We know from archival sources that the mining judge (“Unterbergrichter”) for Dolenjska was based in Šmartno pri Litiji, which speaks of the great importance of the mine, as Šmartno was only a small village at that time. The preserved tombstone of Christoph Bruckerschmied from 1537, which is nowadays stored in the Church of St. Martin in Šmartno pri Litiji, most likely represents a mining judge and not a mining master, as was claimed until recently.
The mine was closed during the time when Johann Weikhard von Valvasor lived in Bogenšperk Castle, where he also wrote his famous work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola. The cause of the closure is not yet known. Valvasor mentions traditional mining in his book based on tailings dams that were the by-product of the mine. He wrote, among other things, that the mine was once large, but is now abandoned.
The mine did not reopen until the last quarter of the 19th century. They exploited various ores, mainly lead and mercury. Additionally, they mined ores which contained zinc, copper, iron and barite.
Throughout the mine’s history, many owners have changed and mining has been interrupted several times. In February 1965 there was a commission meeting in Litija regarding the decommissioning of the mine. They established that mining research did not yield the expected results. The low content of metal in the ore no longer allowed for profitable excavation, the technical equipment of the pit was poor and the ore bodies were small and scattered in space. All of this made it impossible to modernize the way of working. The main complications that contributed heavily to the deterioration of the conditions were problems with processing plants and miners getting sick from silicosis (lung disease). The Commission therefore proposed that the works in the cave be stopped. Lead and barite production continued until the end of July 1965, after which the plants began to close.
In 1880, a smelter was built on the left bank of the Sava River for the needs of smelting ore (mainly lead and mercury) from Sitarjevec. The ore was transported across the Sava River by a 364 m long freight cable car, as well as by carts that drove it over a wooden bridge built in 1855. The smelter caused a number of problems, as it had a negative impact on the health of humans, animals and plants due to the release of toxic sulphur gases. Despite the additional high chimneys that were built by the management due to numerous complaints about pollution, there was a mass death of bees in the 1920s. The following multiannual beekeepers’ litigation resulted in, among other thing, the shutdown of the plant in 1924.
Litija SILVER COINS
In 1886, Litija’s smelter managed to successfully extract silver, which appears in small quantities in lead ore. They sent 3.6999 kg of silver to the Vienna State Mint, where they turned it into commemorative silver coins – Litija silver coins. The front depicts the smelter, the train, the Church of St. Nicholas, the Sitarjevec hill and the mining cable car which led to the smelter. The other side holds the name of the mine with the symbolic inscription “first silver look”.
The silver coin in the form of a commemorative magnet can be bought in our gift shop.
Beekeepers’ litigation is a term that depicts the fight of Litija’s beekeepers against the Litija smelter.
Toxic gases of lead ore caused great ecological damage in the area. In addition to the mass killings of bees, the smelter caused a number of diseases in animals, as well as humans and plants. The litigation lasted for a few years. The final verdict was passed in the Supreme Court in Zagreb in the beekeepers’ favour. The smelter in Litija was closed and the machines were moved to Topusko in Croatia. The beekeepers’ litigation was the first successful ecological lawsuit in Slovenia (1921 – 1926).
specific Slovenian jargon terms
GLOSSARY OF MINING TERMS
“FOKS”L – wooden wedge
“FORT HAKEL” – metal wire nail
“MAŠINCA” – machine for shooting and blasting
“LAMPA” – personal lamp
“PELIGAN” – reinforced adze
“ŠAJBA” – personal cave number
“ŠAHT” – export air transit shaft
“ŠALA” – cage in the shaft
“FIRENK” – rails of the cage
“ŠPRAHROR“ – communication pipeline
“ŠUFECA” – footwrap
“ŠUSMOJSTER” – the person who is in charge of trench blasting
“FALA” – rear end of a trunk; a board
“ŠIHT” – 8-hour workday
“ŠTAJGER” – supervisor, foreman
“HAJER” – the first digger
“LERHAJER” – assistant digger
“LAUFAR” – beginner / unskilled miner
“OBERŠTAJGER” – manager
“CAJH” – tools
“HERC” – coal shovel
“KRAMP” – mattock
“HINKO” – excavator hammer
“PORKHAMER” – excavator drilling machine
“KROCA” – big garden hoe
“ŠTEMPEL” – supporting stand (iron or wooden)
“RIGEL” – round wooden pillar leaning on a supporting pillar
“UNTERCUH” – oak underlay or wooden struts
“KVEL” – wooden crack
“ŠPRUDEL” – small piece of wood for filling the openings behind the panelling
“FORTNA” – cave ladder
“ŠTREKNA” – trench excavation, tunnel
“GEZENK” – sloped trench
“AVPRUH” – demolition of the excavation ceiling
“LEGNT” – tailings, waste
“MAŠINHAUS” – machinery space
“URLAUB” – holiday
Sitarjevška cesta 46, Litija 1270
+386 51 312 739
+386 70 700 484
Good to know:
- Tours for organized groups are available anytime, however, prior booking is required because the mine is only accessible via a guided tour.
- The tour is suitable for everyone, including mobility-impaired persons, since the tunnel has no slope.
- The tunnel has a constant temperature of 10 ° C and 100% humidity.
- Every visitor receives a helmet for personal safety. We recommend warm clothes and comfortable footwear.
- Depending on your wishes, you can experience a gastronomic adventure and be served various special dishes in the tunnel.
- The tour is approximately one hour long.
- Applications are accepted until all the places for a particular time slot are filled.
- Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 to 12:00 and 15:00 to 18:00,
- Saturdays from 9:00 to 12:00,
- Sundays from 15:00 to 18:00.
How to find us:
- Travelling by car: kraji.eu/city_distance/litija/ljubljana/slo
- Travelling by train: www.slo-zeleznice.si/sl/
- Travelling by bicycle: www.sloveniaholidays.com/kolesarske-poti/ob-savi-od-litije-do-ljubljane