History of Rude mines exploitation
It is not known for sure when exactly people started to work in the mines in Rude. However, certain data and remains of old and narrow galleries built without the use of powder lead to the conclusion that it was in the Middle Age, or maybe even in the Roman Age. According to the oldest available data, copper ore was extracted as early as 1210, and back then the village of Rude was called Rovi. According to the first reliable data which dates back to 16th century at that time the owner of the mine was Leonard Gruber who sold copper. The mine often changed owners, mainly due to financial crises.
Data on the copper production is scarce in particular for the 16th and 17th centuries. The year 1773 marked the beginning of more regular records on the production details providing evidence of a more or less constant mining, with some variations in the production, and from the beginning of the 17th cent. until the year 1800 the annual output was between 200 and 400 cents (1 cent=56.006 kgs). The highest copper outputs were recorded in 1634 and in 1791 with 573 and 546 cents, respectively. It is also the time of the origin of the preserved pit map (1777) showing a wide extent of the underground works. Due to exhaustion of the deposits the production dropped after the year 1800. The exploitation of the copper ore stopped in 1851. The analysis of the existing data leads to the conclusion that the total production at Rude amounted to 2,200 to 2,800 tons of copper.
The production of iron ore (siderite) started in 1850, and the most of the ore was melted in Rude, in a blast furnace of the annual capacity of 25,000 cents, one part of which was transported to Slovenia. The annual production of iron ore was between 20,000 and 130,000 cents, while the annual production of iron was between 5,000 and 16,000 cents. The mine was closed in 1859 due to unprofitability. During the period of ten years of operation the amount of 26,000 tons of iron ore was extracted.
Nearly all of the ore excavated at the time was extracted in the area of Vlašić-Kokel pits, and only a small portion of ore was extracted from other locations such as the Classenbruch opencut where, before World War Two, hematite was extracted for the needs of the Sisak ironworks.
After the cessation of exploitation works, research works were carried out on several occasions with the aim to restore the mining activity in the area. Research was carried on before World War One and in the period between World War One and Two when numerous minor research works were conducted both on the left and right banks of the Gradna brook. Besides the exploration of iron and copper ore deposits, exploration and extraction of gypsum were also carried out, but further extraction of gypsum was stopped, despite its considerable quantities, because the percentage of anhydrite was too high (about 15%).
In the area of the mining part of Gradna, downstream Rude, gypsum was extracted in several sites. Exploitation started at the beginning of the 20th century and went on, with occasional interruptions, until the early ‘50s.
Mining research works from 1952 to 1956
The only available old pit map is the one from 1777 as referred to above. It is obvious from the map that mining works were quite expanded and reached the depth of about 25 m under the lowest underground workings of Vlašić (St. Anton). Because copper ore was extracted until 1850, the works were probably carried on even deeper.
During the last research of deposits in the 1950s, the lowest underground workings of Vlašić were cleared (311 m above sea level) with the entrance in the immediate vicinity of the outpatient facility in Rude. The pit is about 550 m long and it was caved in up to 430 m due to the fact that this particular part was situated in the clay sandstone of no resistance. Behind it there is gypsum and this part of the drift was not caved in. Next, the clearing was done of the Sv. Trojstvo pit (340 m above sea level) which is rather expanded with the total length of some 520 m. The first 120 m were caved in and the rest of it was generally passable. Then the highest pit of Kokel (363 m above sea level) was cleared, and it is about 200 m long with the first 70 m caved in. Between the Sv. Trojstvo and Kokel pits there are iron ore (siderite) faces which are passable and which connect the two pits. At the end of the Vlašić shaft there is the Josip shaft which extends both upwards and downwards. Downwards it was about 22 m deep, and during the last research works the shaft was made deeper, the total depth now being 81 m. At the elevation 245 a 178 m long gallery was constructed which passed under the goaves, and since no ore was found, it was concluded that the ore veins did not extend deep enough and that they were generally extracted in the goaves, which resulted in suspension of further work.
Mining works on the restoration of the Kokel pit 2002-2004
In the early 2002 prof. Boris Šinkovec, geologist who was responsible for mining research works in Rude in 50-ies, came out with the idea of opening a mining museum in Rude, on the location of old mines Kokel and Sveto Trojstvo. Members of Folk Group Oštrc had recognized the great potential of his notion and decided to open the Kokel mine again.
Aware of the fact that without making their own efforts no help from others can be expected, in the spring 2002 the citizens of Rude (mainly members of the Folklore Group Oštrc) by themselves dug out the entrance to the Kokel mine, and after talks with the project originator, Mr Šinkovac, and upon visual inspection of the pits, this mine was chosen as the most adequate and most preserved for the opening. The illegal waste dump at the entrance was removed, as well as considerable deposits of mud which were taken out from the passable part of the mine (first 20 m). Contacts were made with several persons – professional miners and geologists who expressed their readiness to provide help in the project.
In addition to the above preparatory works, works started on the removal of the fall at the 22nd m from the mine entrance. Due to the fact that in the 1950s all workings were permanently closed, most of them were more or less caved in, depending on the geological composition of each site (in Rude there were about 10 sites where ore was extracted). Only miners with a long experience and many years of service on the similar jobs were hired for the said works. After ten days of active digging the first fall was dug through, but, unfortunately, a few meters behind it there was another fall of the underground workings which was dug through on October 15, 2004. Apart from the mentioned professional, all other workers were citizens of Rude, mainly members of the Folklore Group Oštrc. Due to lack of space only 3-4 persons may work in the shaft at the same time which results in a daily advance of 1 meter at the most, and all of the excavated earth and rocks are taken out in wheelbarrows. The excavated tunnel is immediately shored up with fir shores which were also processed by members of FG Oštrc. So far some 250 shores have been used for the pit restoration. The total length of the restored part of the mine amounts to 35 m, and the restoration took exactly 50 work days.
The tunneling of the falls marked the end of the preparatory works and made accessible some 400 m of passable galleries, including the impressive underground exploitation workings. Those works discovered the extreme tourist potential of Rude mines and served as the base for Neighbourhood Programme Slovenia-Hungary-Croatia application.