The descent


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Trepça/Trepča, Mitrovica. More than a mine, a metaphor: of hope and development during Yugoslavia, of struggles and tensions in the Milošević era, of crisis and divisions today. A descent into the bowels of Kosovo. Audio by Francesco Martino, photos by Andrea Pandini [December 2010]

In the 1970s the mining-industrial complex of Trepça/Trepča employed 23 thousand people. Its structures, present in the whole of Kosovo, but mainly in the town of Mitrovica with the rich mine of Stan Tërg/Stari trg and its numerous processing plants, accounted for 70% of the Yugoslav extraction production. Today, marked by the embitterment of inter-ethnic Serb-Albanian tensions, by the armed conflict of 1999 and the difficult post-war period, the company is like a worn-out giant, on the verge of total collapse. For Kosovars, both Albanian and Serbian, Trepça/Trepča represents much more than a mine, it is like the metaphor of Kosovo's fate. A source of wealth (and environmental pollution) in Tito's socialist years, the scene of protests and strikes against Milošević's regime, today Trepça/Trepča is one of the best examples of the complexity surrounding the division of Mitrovica. Stan Tërg/Stari trg is on the South side of the town, in the area controlled by Albanians. Today they are the only ones working in the mine, as the processing plants on the Serbian side of Mitrovica are just about totally inactive.