Porto Flavia

Porto Flavia

an article by Dott. Mauro Buosi

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(Continued) Using their small lateen sail boats, these watermen ferried goods between the beaches of Masua, Funtanamare, Cala Domestica, Canal Grande and Buggerru to the spacious storehouses situated in the S. Pietro island. Goods were subsequently taken from here to be finally stowed in large freighters. These operations of loading and unloading naturally increased the expenses and costs involved thus rendering the exploration of mines unprofitable for the managing Company. ln an attempt to overcome this considerable problem, in 1 922 the Belgian Company Vieille Montagne, managing the Masua mine, designed a device capable of loading minerals directly into the ships. This projects was completed in 1924 and was named Porto Flavia after the daughter of the designer lng. Vecelli. Porto Flavia was developed by excavating two overlapping galleries in the mountain: the 600-m gallery at 37,4 a.s.l., equipped with an electric convoy originating from the processing plants, and the 100-m gallery at 16 m a.s.l., containing a long transporter belt which terminated outside the mountain with a mobile rever arm. Nine silos were dug between the two galleries and were filled from the upper gallery; these silos were capable of containing up to 1O,OOO tons of minerals which were subsequently unloaded into the transporter belt in the lower gallery by means of mechanical hoppers. The silos were used to contain various types of minerats: galena, sphalerite and calamina. The 20 m long lever arm enhanced the direct loading of minerals into the ship at the end of the bay underlying Porto Flavia, in front of Fan di Zucchero, an imposing calcareous rock so called because of its snow white colour (zucchero means sugar in ltalian language). It is high 134 meters, has an extension of 4 hectares and is crossed by invisible galleries left by a short, but intense, mining activity. lt was the natural shelter of the ships during loading operations. The minerals were stowed directly into the ship hold by means of a thick rubberised fabric tube termed "buttafuori" (bumpkin) which originated in the opening situated at the end of the mobile lever arm and terminated inside the ships hold, thereby preventing both the dispersion of powdery matter by the wind or by the movement of the waves, and the formation of clouds of dust during the download of the minerars. ln spite of the advantages affored by the new loading system, which was perfectty integrated in the large mining complex, the Company was not able to avoid closure during the economic crisis of the 1930's. Porto Flavia plant came into use once again immediately after the war, and operated until the beginning of the 1960's; subsequently the plant became obsolete and was totally abandoned.

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The Vieille Montagne brings historians, genealogists and researchers from around Europe together into a co-operative project investigating the history of the Vieille Montagne and its workers.
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