Revival of the degraded land – Martina Vilhar

The series ‘Revival of the degraded land’ is about an abandoned mine taken over by natural processes. It is a story about the rejuvenation of degraded land, which had been opened up and exhausted for minerals, exploited and abandoned without any restoration plan. The story is told through rocks, once witnesses of the intense mining activities, now part of the land revival. 

The barite, galena and sphalerite mine Pleše is located near Ljubljana, Slovenia. In its most intense period of mine extraction between 1857 and 1863, two-hundred tonnes of lead was extracted per year. The mine was closed and abandoned in 1963. Since then, natural processes and vegetation have taken over the degraded soils, and as a result of a source of freshwater, shrubs, dwarf pines, algae, moss and other plants covered the barren grounds and grew over the oxidised industrial objects. Mud, moss, sands and rocks come in a variety of forms, structures, textures and colours. At different parts of the mine, entire ecosystems are starting to thrive. A natural lake, formed on the impermeable ground of the mine, attracts wildlife as well as many summer bathers, although the access to the site remains restricted. So far, there’s no plan for further use of this site.

I live in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I’m an ecologist, concerned about land degradation, deforestation, pollution and global warming. Recently I moved back to my home country from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where I lived for the past six years. There I discovered that life in a bustling city was too overwhelming for me and that I preferred living closer to nature.

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