Already in the times of Pericles, man started excavating a heavy burden near the town of Balya (Balikesir, Turkey). Later, there would be holed out one of the the largest lead mines of the world with the establishment in 1892 of the French-Turkish “Societé des Mines de Balya Karaydın”. The company may have produced some 400.000 tons of pig lead before it closed in 1940, leaving millions of tons of strongly contaminated mineral waste, together with barren land and some century old ruins from mining and ore-processing activities; finally transferred by Turkish Etibank State Mining company, into the hands of the impoverished town of Balya, about a decade and a half ago.
In 1908, miners of the Balya mine, like their counterpart in the Sardinian mine of Buggerru 4 years earlier, laid down work in response to poor working conditions and started the first series of nation-wide strikes, birth of the socialist workers movement in Turkey. At the height of the mine, Balya had 30.000 inhabitants, while French lived in luxury, driving the latest cars to the finest bars; Turkish miners shared a bed to sleep in and a belly dancer to dream on. Now the town of Balya counts a mere 1500 inhabitants and soon our helping hands for the immense task of cleaning the mining area that each year spreads its toxic legacy further into the wider environment by dry summer winds and heavy winter rains.