Mining on the island of Milos

Loading facility at Kanava
Loading facility at Kanava

Milos is situated on the volcanic arc of the southern Aegean created by the subduction of the African continental plate beneath the Aegean plate. If you believe the science, this situation poses no real threat today. The last volcanic eruptions on Milos occurred at least 60,000 years ago. But frequent earthquakes in the region and geothermal activity such as hot springs and gas emissions show that the earth is anything but quiet.

Southern Aegean volcanic belt
Southern Aegean volcanic belt
Hot vapours in Kalamos
Hot vapours in Kalamos
Sulphur on the beach at Ag. Ioannis
Sulphur on the beach at Ag. Ioannis

Photo 1: Southern Aegean Volcanic Arc, Southern Aegean Island Arc or Cycladic Arc: 1. Methana, 2. Milos, 3. Santorini, 4. Nisyros

Everything at the appropriate time

Over the course of millions of years, volcanism on Milos has created a unique geology. And it is responsible for the presence of a large number of mineral resources, some of them rare, that have shaped the history of the island from the Neolithic to the present. Of course, not all the mineral resources were of economic importance at any one time. For instance, man’s interest during the various epochs was constantly changing to different materials that it was worth wresting from nature by hard work. When in about 7,000 BC obsidian was being extracted in Nichia and Demenegaki, no-one knew what to do with either the manganese ore from Vani or the sulphur from Paliorema. And at the peak of millstone production in Rema, no-one had any idea for a long time to come of the modern production processes in which perlite would play a part.

Mining on Milos today

Today, the mining on Milos is mainly about the extraction of two minerals: bentonite and perlite. In addition, pozzolan is still being extracted in a single mine in the southwest of the island. Statements from various sources about the mining of other ores such as kaolin and barite are out of date (as at 2020). The mines are of course still there but production has currently ceased. Bentonite, pearlite and pozzolan are extracted above ground, so traditional underground mining is a thing of the past. Today, extraction is carried out on a large scale and in a high-tech manner using powerful vehicles. It is only in the abandoned former mining regions that old galleries, rusty underground rail networks and abandoned machinery still bear witness to the hard times in which miners spent their lives of privation mainly underground.

Imerys perlite mine in Trachilas
Imerys perlite mine in Trachilas
Bentonite and perlite mines
Bentonite and perlite mines

Update 05/20