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Santorini is covered with volcanic ash almost at its entirety, with the exception of the hill of Profitis EliasMonolithos, Gavrilos hill in Emporeio and certain areas between Fira and Oia. On the Caldera, the ash layer was thick and unadulterated, while ship loading was very easy: so, the Terra Theraic – or Theraic earth – mines were created. The loading docks, can still be seen near Fira and Oia, when sailing around the island.
Theraic earth, containing silicon oxides in complex minerals, is an excellent building material. When mixed with lime, it forms a powerful plaster which solidifies with humidity (even underwater) and in time becomes even harder. When excavated and shaped into a dome, it is extremely resistant and preserves its geometric lines. The famous underground rock-hewn houses of Santorini – cheap to build and ecological too – are built of this material.
This layer of Theraic earth also contains pumice, a very porous, froth-like igneous rock and a bad conductor of heat and sound. Theraic earth is so useful as a building material that it has been used in large construction projects, such as the Suez Canal and the ports of Alexandria and Constanţa. High demand led to the opening of mines in Oia, Fira, AkrotiriTherassia.
At first, mining was carried out using primitive means inside tunnels. Gradually, technological advancements and the use of machinery significantly accelerated the process.

Mines in Therassia, Fira, Oia and Akrotiri

  • The first individual mining-holding took place in Therassia and south of Fira. Therefore Theraic earth entered the national and international construction material market.
  • In 1890 Nikolaos Kanellopoulos, who was considered to be the father of Greek industrialization, leased all the Despotidis mines in Therassia and cooperated with German Grohmann, in founding the company "Ifaistos" which acquired the Diamantopoulos-Kontogouris mines south of Fira. A large factory of drying, grinding and bagging Theraic earth, equipped with the most modern machinery of the era, had been built in the area. The impressive building, now deserted, still rises in the area of the old mines and you will see it walking or driving outside Fira (heading to port).
  • Kakkaki's pumice mines, also located outside Fira, had been purchased by the companies of "Stamatiadis-Nikosias" and "Atlas" for the production of renowned bricks. In 1930 Diamantopoulo's mines came into possession of ship owner Petros Nomikos and the company "Lava" which approximately in 1970 were sold to AGET Iraklis. In 1981 it was the mine to have been granted the one permission ever issued for the exploitation of Theraic earth. It was permanently shut down in 1989.
  • All of Grohmann's stock of the "Ifaistos" company were confiscated and assumed in 1941 by the General Accounting Office and in 1975 by ETVA. In 1979 the mining area of "Ifaistos" had been leased by N. Bountouroglou and Co later named "Atlantis", and continued the exploitation until the lease expired and the operations had been permanently stopped. South of the "Ifaistos"'s area the exploitation had been carried on by several others until cease of operations by law for every mine not to have been issued a permission for exploitation of industrial materials.
  • In 1979, the company "Atlantis" had acquired the mine of "Atlas" (third in line after those of Ifaistos and Papageorgiou outside Fira). Mining continued until 1984. It was then that the operations of the "Ermis" mine owned by Mavromatis in the area of the then Community of Megalohori, near Akrotiri village had also stopped.
  • Between 1935 and 1940 Mathew Mavromatis started the exploitation of the mines in Oia with a loading ladder in Ammoudi (shut down in 1974) and ship owner Michael Karageorgis north of Athinios which shut down in 1941. The exploitation there was carried on by several others (Chiotopoulos, Mavromatis, Markou) after the lease of the area by its owner until the permanent shut down in 1982.


In 1940 Santorini's mines produced more than 120.000 tones of Theraic earth and pumice and employed 200-300 people. The countdown for their operation had begun since 1970 as tourism in the island increased.

Sources: "Theran land mines, a historic record", by Roussetos Livadaros, mining engineer / Lecturer in EMP from the book "Santorini, Thera, Therassia, Aspronisi, Volcanoes", by Ioannis M. Danezis/2001. Editor in chief Emm. A. Lignos., author: Paraskevi Bozineki-Didoni, from the records of the scientific conference entitled "Historical mines in the Aegean region, (19th-20th c.)", organized in Milos island with the cooperation of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, which published the relevant book in 2005.

Βιομηχανία - Ορυχεία
Βιομηχανία - Ορυχεία

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