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On the Iglesiente coast in the southwestern part of Sardinia suspended halfway up the cliff is the Porto Flavia mine, which is an engineering feat that revolutionized the mining sector in the area. The mining area of Masua (a comune in the province of Carbonia-Iglesias) was rich with various minerals and metals. Up until the 1920's workers would fill baskets with ore and carry them to the boats to be unloaded. Once the boat was filled it would set sail to Carloforte about 19 miles from Masua where the boat would be unloaded onto a much bigger steamship. Mine extraction in the early 20th century was very primitive. Workers became fatigued and often injured, boats could not survive the rough seas and would sink losing weeks' worth of work. The mining company realized something needed to be done to make the mining industry more productive and less dangerous. They contacted Italian engineer Cesare Vecelli in hopes that he could devise a much better process of extracting the ore and loading the ships.
The main problem that needed solved was that the water was too shallow for larger boats to moor and the wind and waves created an unsafe environment for both the workers and the smaller boats themselves. It took Cesare Vecelli nearly a year of studying the area to come up with a plan to improve the mining process. He found the perfect area on the coast next to high cliffs that was deep enough and shielded the steamships from the winds and waves so it could safely moor. To load the ships Vercelli's plan consisted of excavating two tunnels approximately 2000 feet long half way up the cliff. A crew of miners who were experts in explosives and rock climbing were brought in to work on the tunnels. The tunnels were excavated one on top of the other. The upper tunnel was approximately 121 feet above sea level and the lower tunnel was about 52 feet above sea level. They connected the tunnels with silos. The entire project took less than 2 years to complete and was finished in 1924. The tunnels facing the sea had concrete towers constructed and decorative nameplates added. Vecelli asked the owner if he could name the mine after his eldest daughter Flavia. The owner agreed and the mine was called Porto Flavia.
The two tunnel approach allowed for the workers to bring the ore in the upper tunnel where it would be deposited in the silos. The ore would drop to the bottom tunnel where it would get loaded on a conveyor belt. From here it would be transported out the opening over the cliff into the hold of the moored ship. Once the mine became operational it cut the production costs by nearly 70%. The mine eventually closed in the 1990's when mineral production in Masua ended. Today you can take guided tours of the mine (you can find out more about the guided tours here. It is a popular destination for tourists that visit the area. Once you make your way through the mine and learn about the history and experience the conditions the miners worked in you are treated to breathtaking views of the beautiful sea and the Pan di Zucchero, which is a massive rock formation and one of the island's natural monuments.
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