A mysterious old mine still stands in Macedonia, right on the border with Greece. Allchar is the name of this mine. The history of Allchar stretches from ancient Macedonia through Roman times and the Ottoman Empire to the present day.
There are said to be minerals in the mine that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. The rarest of all – the Lorándite- is thought to have the potential to help us understand the work of the sun. Science fiction or reality?
The history of the mine is very interesting but little known and documented. It is a mine with a particularly long tradition.
Gold, thallium, antimony used to alloy heavy weapons, and other minerals unique to this mine have been mined there for over five thousand years. The mineral Lorándite is particularly mysterious.
Allchar is the type locality for this rare mineral. The purest can only be found in Allchar. It is even said that Alexander the Great drew superpowers from this mineral!
Let’s explore Allchar
Allchar is a mine on Mount Kožuf, where the thallium mineral Lorándite was first discovered as early as 1894.
The mine is located three hundred meters from the small village of Majden at the foot of Mount Kožuf in the picturesque Mariovo region. You can get inside through eight wide openings in the floor.
Two of the eight openings in the pits from the underground excavations are six thousand meters long and today have a badly damaged stone pavement (Kaldrma/Macedonian).
World-renowned geologists call this mine the best-kept secret on our planet. Some consider it to be mankind’s greatest mystery because the secret of the creation of the cosmos and the solar system was said to be hidden in his mine!
Minerals from Allchar have also been found in the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Stobi.
The place is hardly accessible for tourists. No infrastructure up to and near the mine. Although the mines themselves are accessible (partly illegally and at risk of life), they do not meet any safety standards. For adventurers and mineral and crystal seekers, however, this is precisely what makes it so interesting.
The mine’s current name is an abbreviation of the first letters of the surnames of the people who managed it in the first half of the 20th century: Allatini (a French banking family) and Chartreau (the mining engineer). Because of the name Chartreau, the ch is pronounced like an sh. That is why the Macedonians name it simply Alshar.
A poisoned “forbidden” hill
On the left, two hundred yards from Allchar, is an evergreen hill where neither human foot nor ruminant may tread. In the hill country there is thallium, a much more dangerous poison than arsenic (it is found in smaller quantities) which, if ingested, kills any cattle that graze there.
There are springs of hot water to the left of Allchar and the hill. Across the way, at the end of the village of Majden, the villagers use a white mineral (most likely borax) to wash clothes, wash dishes, and clean with it everything else.
This natural pure mineral is available in unlimited quantities. Known locally as the Red Valley, the magically enchanted terrain surrounding Allchar is a true mystery to scientists.
In 1986, the then Yugoslav government launched the “Lorex” project, involving a dozen scientific institutions from Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia. However, after the collapse of the SFRY, all activities around the mine were halted.
Today, local residents from the surrounding villages serve as guides for the “mysterious” foreigners who visit the mine. The villagers say that the mine is full of minerals that glow in different colors.
The mountain at the foot of which the mine stands has been a taboo zone since the end of the Second World War. It was declared a restricted military area. Of course, that helped the rumors to grow.
The stories are full of fantasies. They talk about national government helicopters and foreign military landmarks (there is a large foreign military presence in the region).
A few years ago, the mine was registered as a natural monument and is part of the Council of Europe’s Emerald Network of “Areas of Special Interest for Conservation”.
Are there still deposits in the mine?
Actually, yes! The Allchar mine itself, as well as the surrounding mines, are not yet fully exploited.
According to the amount of ore in the mine, it is estimated at around 1.5 billion euros. According to current knowledge, Allchar contains at least 500 tons of thallium, which occurs in lorandite. The value of a kilogram of thallium is around 5,000 euros on the world stock exchanges.
It is estimated that the mine still has deposits of 50,000 tons of ore containing 2 percent arsenic, 2.5 percent antimony and 0.1 percent thallium, making the mine the richest thallium deposit in the world.
According to rough estimates, the mine may have reserves of up to 40 tonnes of lorandite.
Another mine near Allchar is estimated to be capable of producing 20 tons of gold. Near the mine, in the village of Majden, there is another mine for extracting dolomite. One company has a 30-year concession to mine dolomite. It is estimated that the mine has approximately 6,000,000 tons of ore reserves.
What does history say about Allchar?
The mine is mentioned in writing in Ottoman notebooks from 1481.
In this document, which refers to Rozhden Atar (the village of Rozhden is near Allchar), the annual income of the then Turkish sultan is mentioned.
It amounted to 13,380 akçe, of which 1,500 akçe are attributable to the sale of arsenic ore from Allchar. (Akçe is the name of the first silver coin minted by the Ottomans and circulated for many centuries).
In the 15th and 16th centuries, mining activities prospered the region.
The following data on the operation of the mine can be found in documents from 1877, when the mining settlement of Majden began to be established. During this period Allchar was given under concession to an Anglo-French company based in Thessaloniki. The work at the mine was supervised by engineer Chartreau.
At the beginning, 500 workers were employed in the mine. Today, traces of the old separation of arsenic can be seen in the lower parts of the village of Majden. The ore, which was crushed and separated in this way, was transported by horse-drawn carriage and cart to Salonica and from there by train to the smelters in Freiberg in Germany.
The first samples in which the presence of thallium minerals was discovered were taken from these wagons. During the Balkan War and World War I, the mine ceased operations.
The village of Majden itself originated as a mining settlement. According to the last census in 2021, three people live there (but they did not give any information to the counters.)
Geological explorations at the Allchar mine
After the Second World War, the mine was mainly explored geologically, but regular mining did not take place.
Research up to 1965 led to the discovery of a lot of antimony, arsenic and thallium ores. The investigations revealed the presence of thallium in concentrations of 0.11-0.22%, especially in the northern part of the deposit called Crven Dol.
In the early 1980s, American astrophysicist Melvin Friedman became interested in minerals from Allchar (particularly the mineral lorandite) with a view to using Allchar thallium minerals as detectors for neutrinos originating from the Sun.
The myteroius Lorándite
The Lorándite is a rarely occurring mineral from the mineral class of “sulfides and sulfosalts”. It crystallizes in the monoclinic crystal system with the composition TlAsS2 (thallium, arsenic and sulfur) and is a binary sulfosalt with a cation/chalcogen ratio of 1:1 according to the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) nomenclature.
Lorándite was recognized and described as an independent mineral in 1894 by József Krenner, who named it after the Hungarian physicist Loránd Eötvös.
The type locality is Allchar. Other well-known occurrences are deposits in China (Xiangquan, Lanmuchang, Zimudang) and the USA (Nevada, Utah, Wyoming). As well as Zarshuran (Takab, Iran), Beshtau (Caucasus, Russia) and the Lengenbach pit in Binntal (Valais, Switzerland).
The industrial importance of Lorándite is small, nearly zero. In some deposits it is relevant for the extraction of thallium.
Lorándite has been of scientific interest since the end of the 20th century as a possible dosimeter for measuring solar activity.
In 1978, a secret meeting of the SFRY government was held to discuss whether the allchar ore should be turned over to NASA for research that was said to be using the lorandite for space purposes. However, a final decision was never made.
Did the Lorándite grant Alexander the Great secret ‘superpowers’?
Alexander III of Macedon was not only a conqueror, but also an explorer. From his campaigns he brought some “things” with him home and to Europe. For example, he discovered a crystal that can be found in almost every household today. The Alexander Salt. Better known as Himalayan Salt.
Of course, this suggests that Alexander the Great might have discovered some things at home as well that seemed useful to him.
The English luxury retailer Christopher MacDonald is even of the opinion that Alexander could have discovered the lorandite for himself and his troops.
In a blog entry he reports on this assumption:
It is known Alexander believed in the power of stones, crystals and talismans to bring success and good fortune, and he travelled with magicians and necromancers who read natures signs and warnings. He carried with him on his conquests one particular stone only found in his homeland of Macedonia, today this crystal is called Lorandite. Alexander gave his generals and favoured soldiers these stones, possibly because it was believed the crystal could help concentration and bring success through harnessing the power of the sun.
We find another hint in a short monograph named “Allchar a world natural heritage” by the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts. It says:
e countless sagas, myths, mysteries, enigmas, and secrets related to Allchar, which make this locality the most mysterious in Macedonia and probably one of the most mysterious mineralogical localities in the world. One of these sagas about mineral lorandite comes from the Alexander the Great period, and according to the source of this story, “the Alexander phalanx in the battles which he always fought exactly at noon and had his troops move from west to east covered their shields with lorandite, and thereby produced a strong reflection from their shields that blinded the opposing army.
Christopher MacDonald also mentions the site. We would like to put this quote at the end of the article:
In Macedonia today, one of the very few sources of Lorandite, the mine where the mineral is still found, Alshar in the southern Balkans, is held in quite extraordinary regard and mystery by many people.
How long will Allchar keep his secrets?