Cyprus Mail

Low-cost steps for Amiantos

The asbestos mine opened in 1904 and closed in 1988 after financial difficulties

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE GOVERNMENT aims to cherry pick a series of low-cost measures prepared for the rejuvenation of the Amiantos mine area in the Troodos mountains.

The Forestry Department commissioned, and received last September, a master plan on the rejuvenation of the old asbestos mine and surrounding areas containing a number of measures aimed at bringing the region to life.

Until the 1990s, when the state first announced plans to reforest the area, the pretty drive up to the Troodos mountains was marred by the grey, barren hillside scar at Amiantos, the price of 84 years of asbestos mining.

The asbestos mine in Amiantos opened in 1904 and closed in 1988 after financial difficulties. It is estimated that in the 1930s around 6,000 people were employed there.

President Nicos Anastasiades pledged during his election campaign to install a system of cable cars (teleferik) in and around the Amiantos quarry, a proposal viewed positively by the local community.

Acting head of the Forestry Department Takis Tsindides told the Cyprus Mail that the master plan prepared for the area and available for viewing on the department’s website, will act as a blueprint for any future measures taken by the authorities.

While the economic crisis has made sure funding for the area remains limited, the master plan lays out the measures to be taken over time, ensuring that the authorities will not take any measures that could prove an obstacle to the future implementation of the master plan.

“The master plan proposes possible uses and actions in the area, but at this stage, its main use is to ensure we, who are responsible for the rejuvenation of the area, do not commit an area which is included in the master plan for some other use,” said Tsindides.

He said the department hoped to get approval in March for the implementation of a number of measures “which do not cost too much”.

The department head said he was fully behind the proposal for a cable car system in the Troodos mountains, which would provide an alternative tourism product and attract more visitors to the area.

However, the cost of the project, which would see Amiantos mine connected to Troodos main square and other locations in the area, including the ski centre, Amiantos housing estate and Kakopetria, is expected to be in the millions of euros, making its implementation less likely while state coffers remain parched.

Other proposals in the master plan include: use of a small electric train or golf buggies to get people around, without use of private vehicles; the creation of organised spaces for climbing, using the existing stone walls of the two old mills in the area; preserving other buildings of architectural interest; turning the old mine houses into hostels; expanding the existing botanical garden; creating an eco-building, an interactive industrial museum, and a multi-functional hall.

Tsindides acknowledged the risk that the master plan could end up gathering dust on the shelf, given the state of state finances, but said some of the measures could be adopted using EU funds.

Two projects are already under discussion, he said. One is to renovate the two old mills and utilise them for some purpose, which has yet to be decided, and the other to develop a cycling network from the mine to Troodos and back.

The government will seek to secure EU funds for the projects in 2015. Other projects will have to be implemented over time, he added.

Tsindides pointed to work already done in the region, including: the creation of a botanical garden; the Geopark Troodos Visitors Centre, which will open this year; the establishment of a Seed Bank to save rare seeds of Cyprus, that will also operate this year; and an ongoing project funded by EEA Grants for conservation of Amiantos, with plans to create an artificial pond and a walkway around it.

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