The Sulfur Mines at Paliorema

It is not easy to visit "Paliorema" (Grk. hostile river) as it stands surrounded by rocky mountains and steep cliffs. The visit however, is worth the effort not just for the scenery and the surviving facilities of the sulfur mines (Theiorychia), but mainly to appreciate the living and working conditions of the miners, who would be considered heroes today, due to the challenging and unsanitary conditions they had to endure.

From the mid-19th to the mid-20th c., when a carriageway was constructed, the workers stayed in Paliorema for the entire week. They lived in caves and huts until 1937 when a few dwellings were built. After their shift on Saturday, they would walk for hours to get to their homes, and follow the same way back to the mines for their Monday shift. They bought basic provisions from the local grocery store at low prices using a local currency representing 10 units in coins.

Over the years, sulfur was used for purification, disinfection, fumigation, medical as well as military purposes (liquid fire by the Byzantines), as vineyard pesticide, even to make sulfur candles which were used instead of matches. The oldest written records of sulfur mining and exploitation on the island come from the 5th c. B.C., when Milos was under Athenian rule. The mines were also active while Milos was a part of the Ottoman Empire but systematic exploitation began in 1862 by independent contractors until 1928 when the company "Theiorychia of Milos" was founded. During World War II, production was continued by the Germans. After the war, the facilities were renovated and thanks to the innovative processing method invented by Jason Svoronos, production of 99.5% pure sulfur was achieved. On average, 220-300 workers were employed.