Mätäsvaara Mining Village

In the early 20th century, when the railroad between the towns of Lieksa and Nurmes was being built, a deposit of molybdenum was found. They started extracting the ore and ferrying it to Germany to make steel, but as there was no way to process the ore, the business was unsuccessful and ended in 1916.

In the 1930’s the industry had developed and a new mine was constructed along with a village for the miners. The famed architect Alvar Aalto designed several of the buildings in the village, which quickly rose to the middle of nowhere. Around 1000 people lived there in its prime.

During the 1940’s more than one million tonnes of ore was mined. It was of a very low quality and so the mining produced huge amounts of white sand, which was stored on a field. After the Second World War the price of molybdenum crashed and the mine became unprofitable. It was closed down in 1947 and left the large sand fields behind.

But life in the village far from everything went on. Most of the 80 buildings built decades ago still stand. Even part of them are still inhabited.

The village of Mätäsvaara nowadays sits right on the border of the towns of Lieksa and Nurmes, but back in the days of the mine this wasn’t the case. Until the end of 1972 Nurmes town was a very small plot of land surrounded by Nurmes Municipality. Lieksa was equally small surrounded by Pielisjärvi Municipality. In the end of 1972 Nurmes town and Nurmes municipality were merged to form the new Nurmes town, while Pielisjärvi was merged into Lieksa.

I see what they did there. They removed the letters from the Pielisjärvi sign, turned it upside down and attached new letters. The result is still visible after 48 years.

There are several row houses like this in the village. They are designed by Alvar Aalto and constructed of wooden elements.

The old power station of the mine still stands. The chimney has been demolished and the low wing looks like it isn’t original but an annex from the 1950’s. It looks like some sort of a workshop, but not much activity has ever been around it during my visits.

The centre of the village is here. The power station is just outside the picture on the right.

And this is the former store and restaurant building of the village. It’s the only business still active in here and nowadays houses a small kiosk and a flea market.

The name of the store is side village supermarket. Quite fitting.

Next to the entry to the store were some old photos from the village taken between the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Almost nothing has changed.

The flea market did feature an interesting mix of things from the past. This time we didn’t buy anything else than ice cream.

Published by desertedfinland

A Finnish Urban explorer & Photographer

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