Pyrite from Ballangen
Aktieselskapet Bjørkaasen Gruber was established on 21st of January 1913 and operated on pyrite from 1917 to 1964. It was Ballangen’s cornerstone company for more than 50 years with around 500 employees at its peak.
The pyrite deposit in Bjørkåsen was discovered by chance in 1876; Under the root of an overturned tree, shepherd boy Hans Martinussen Skjåfjell found some gold-glistening crystals. It turned out to be pyrite. The shepherd boy brought the pyrite home to Hans Paulsen Finjord, where they lay until 1883. Then the prospector Håkon Olsen Dypås came to visit, and the find was reported to the sheriff in Evenes.
The Royal Decree on mining was issued on 30 September 1913 with 55 years validity. An ore laundry and homes were built for the plant, as well as hydroelectric power plants. Production could begin in 1917.
In 1919-20 an enrichment plant was built for a stepwise and gentle crushing, with enrichment on set-machines and hardeners. In 1931, a small flotation plant was built for processing some intermediates. The possibility of continuous running of both the mechanical laundry and the flotation was up for discussion, but WW2 put a temporary stop to these plans. In 1947 plans were again taken up, and in 1948-49 rebuilding and alterations were made to the facility.
In the years prior to 1940, ore mining reached about 250,000 tonnes annually, but fell to less than half in later years.
Electric contact locomotives were used on the main floors of the mine and in the transport of ore to the ore laundry. To transport the pyrite from the processing plant in Bjørkåsen to the silo and shipping quay in the port of Ballangen, a 2.3 km narrow gauge railway with a 60 cm gauge for steam locomotive was used, and the wagons were tipped directly via slides into the ship.
One of the steam locomotives on this railway was the Bjørkaasen locomotive, which was in use in Ballangen from 1917 to 1958. The locomotive is still in use today on the Lommedalsbanen as a museum locomotive.
Bjørkaasen Gruber initially had power plants at Arnes and at Bruksjordfossen. A new power plant in Bjørkåsen was commissioned in 1921 and became one of the first power plants in Norway where the station and supply line were completely blasted into the rock. A 16,000-metre-long tunnel led water from Børsvannet to a small levelling basin in Bjørkåsen. Furthermore, the pressure pipe was embedded in a shaft 70 metres down to the station. The water from the station ran through a drainage tunnel and channel into the sea. The new power plant supplied electricity to the mining operations and also water supply to the ore laundry and flotation plant.
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The pyrite from Bjørkåsen is part of this week’s object 2024 – a collaboration project between Museum Nord, Árran Lule Sami Center, Helgeland Museum, Nordland Museum and Narvik War Museum. Read more about this week’s object here.