The Phocis Mining Park-Vagonetto is a unique interactive museum in Greece, dedicated to the bauxite history and mining heritage.
Region of Sterea Ellada counts 91 years of continuous mining activity on the production of Bauxite (Mount Parnasse and Ghiona). During all these decades the mining activity has never been suspended; not even under the years of German occupation. Yet the environmental interventions of mining procedures, always connected with an inevitable “inherent violence”, has put the relationship with local civil society in predicament from time to time, especially due to the lack of meaningful communication between the affected parties.
The story of Vagonetto begun in 1967 when the gallery known as Tunnel 850 launched its operation for the underground mining of bauxite in the Ghiona area. According to the mining practice, a tunnel’s name is actually the number indicative of its elevation. After 5 years of continuous operations Tunnel 850 ceased its operations; the specific bauxite deposit was “exhausted” and thus, the gallery closed down.
In 1998 the company following its sustainability policy and having the scientific background of the area, designed and deployed a –what proved to be- optimum plan for the transformation of the obsolete gallery into an interactive museum, in honor of the old miners of Phocis. Phocis Mining Park welcomed the first visitors in 2003. Ever since, Vagonetto which was actually the wagon that miners of the past used to transfer ore, remains a unique means of transportation through time and the history of bauxite mining for numerous contemporary travelers.
The construction, maintenance and operation of Vagonetto was realized with private funding. Yet, the acquisition of the audio-guide digital system and the establishment of the Interactive Wing of Digital Technology were projects co-funded by EU (European Regional Development Fund) and Greece state.
Evidence of success
Vagonetto welcomes approximately 10,000 visitors annually, offering a multifaceted experience to families, educators and students. The Ministry of Education early included Vagonetto in the list of approved educational destinations and thus, 60% of the visitors are students of all levels.
Vagonetto reflects the facility’s history as an integral part of local residents’ life and labor in Phocis, in harmony with the area’s numerous archeological sites including Delphi, an Unesco WorldHeritage Site
No serious challenges set in danger this practice, since the mining company had the support of local authorities and community.
Potential for learning or transfer
Vaggoneto has created and bears important semantics, engaged with critical challenges the ‘traumatized’ mining sector is called to address, lately more connected to communication and social acceptance rather than techno-economic aspects. The outcome of a visit to Vagonetto is simple and ethical, thus priceless; all visitors receive sufficient information about the necessity of mining operation so as to form their own opinion about it. Further to the aspects of tourism and education, the restoration of the area by the reproduction of endemic, rare flora specie and native plants was another solid benefit for the local community. Yet, the most important outcome was the Fokida Initiative, a non-profit Civil Company, established by the mining company, 4 municipalities and the Fokida Chamber of Industry and Commerce, aiming to support and promote the sustainable economic and cultural development of the area for the benefit of the local communities.