History of industrial activity in the area known as Labinštin, is predominantly and largely connected to exploitation of coal mines. Beginnings of mining date back to the times of Venetian Republic when what is known as coral coal or coal black (pegola nera), once used for impregnation of ships was discovered here.
After the First World War the mines came under Italian management (taken over in 1919 by the Trieste based company SOCIETA’ ANONIMA CARBONIERA »ARSA«) and their modernisation was quickly speeded up, turning the mines into the very backbone of Istrian economy. In 1935, the company came under new ownership of the company AZIENDA CARBONI ITALIANI, which moved company headquarters from Trieste to Rome. This was the year that saw the beginning of development of coal miners’ towns of Raša and Podlabin, and of the Bršica port, as well as the draining of the Čepićko Jezero Lake.
Coal mines of Istria witnessed a new heyday in 1959, in the time of the former Yugoslavia, when 6.287 miners mined 860100 tons of coal.
Today Istrian coal mines are part of not only Republic of Croatia, but also former Yugoslavian, Austrian and Italian industrial heritage, which largely exploited the mines, and indirectly of even German heritage (all energy facilities, motors, pumps, elevators and other equipment were made by Siemens) as well as that of France (Napoleon’s Decree – first written document of 1807 which allowed the export of Istrian coal).
»Tupljak« coal mine and mining-industrial complex »Pijacal«
The Pijacal mining-industrial complex is located on the north-side foot of the hill where old Labin town centre sits. The compound was built in the period between 1938 and 1942, while the winding gear (Šoht) with warm passage of the former Istrian coal mine Raša (Istrian coal mine Tupljak) in Podlabin was built between 1935 and 1938. Winding gear with warm passage and underground cave spaces are on the level of the Krapan corridor (known as VIIIth horizon) as well as fundamental characteristics of original cave structures and entry into the pit have been preserved until this day. Winding gear is a 25 meter tall metal construction the size 15 x 10 meter, with a large pulley on top.
The Pijacal mining-industrial complex also comprises of architectonic facility of the office building with the main cloak room for miners and bathrooms, area for cave lamp saving, chemistry lab, electricity workshop, area for mechanical treatment, a warehouse, infirmary and mortuary, main and auxiliary winding engine, old and new transformer station, blower station, building for refrigerators, sand and technical gases warehouse, locksmith workshop, carpentry workshop and a heating plant located further north.
Miners’ town Podlabin
In 1938, opening of a new mining pit in Labin and requirements for residential areas for miners and their families led to construction of a miner’s town on the large grass field beneath what is today Labin old town centre (formerly Albona), based on plans of Rome architect Eugenio Montuori (1907-1982). On 28 October 1942, on 20th anniversary of Mussolini’s march to Rome, the miner’s town Pozzo Littorio d’Arsia was solemnly opened, which despite having all characteristics and content of a town was administration-wise part of Raša (formerly Arsia). In 1943, the residential estate changed its name to Piedalbona, and in 1947 finally got its current name – Podlabin, which over time merged with the town of Labin, becoming its constituent part.
Miners’ town Raša
Raša was designed as a new miners’ town, following the latest trends in spatial planning and architecture. Originally called Liburnia, Raša is also known as the youngest town in Istria. Construction works began in 1937 and were completed in a total of 547 days, as part of Mussolini’s »citta di fondazione« programme, under which 12 new towns for housing workers were built at the time. Raša is the only remaining example of fully preserved urban compound from the era, a living monument of Italian rationalistic architecture. Raša was built on plans by Italian architect of Jewish origin Gustavo Pulitzer Finali, who almost simultaneously designed the Sicily mining town Carbonia based on practically identical architectonic plans.
Podlabin and Raša residential estates are known as jewels of Italian functional-rationalist architectural style, which originates from experience of European avant-garde of 1920s and 1930s and was quite unfairly neglected after the Second World War due to ideological reasons (the architectural style reached its peak in the time of Fascist Europe) and nearly became forgotten and left to decay.