Ytterby Mine on Resarö has a unique place in scientific world history. Swedish chemists found there and identified during the 18th and 19th centuries eight new, previously unknown elements: four of these have been named after the village, namely yttrium, terbium, erbium and ytterbium. The others are holmium, scandium, thulium and tantalum, and a Swiss chemist also identified gadolinium in material from Ytterby. All these elements, except tantalum, are so-called rare earth metals, which have received a number of uses in e.g. computers and wind turbines. The supply of these is now a high-priority political issue as they are mainly produced in China.
In the mine, quartz was probably already mined in the 17th century, which was used as a slag former in the blast furnaces at the ironworks in Roslagen. From the end of the 18th century, feldspar was mined for porcelain production at the Rörstrandsfabriken on Kungsholmen. When the factory moved out of Stockholm at the beginning of the 20th century, regular production ceased and the mine was closed in 1933. During the Cold War, the mine hole was used to store first aviation fuel and later diesel for the navy’s ships. The water pressure in the ground and the fact that gasoline and oil float on water made it possible to use the mine as a large storage tank without major measures. When the Cold War ended, there was no longer any need for emergency storage and the mine was filled with water.
The mine is attracting great international interest. It was named Historical Landmark in 1989 by the metallurgists of the organization ASM International. In 2018, the mine was awarded the European Historical Landmark award by the European Chemical Society, an association of chemists.
Föreningen Ytterby Gruva was formed in 2015 to preserve the mine and its surroundings and spread knowledge about the mine and make it available to all interested parties: schoolchildren, students, researchers and a science-interested public. The association works on a non-profit basis and builds on the work of passionate people from Resarö and Waxholm’s Rotary Club in collaboration with Vaxholm’s municipality. A staircase that facilitates access to the mine has been built, the mine office has been converted into a small meeting room and information signs have been put up. In the summer of 2022, guided tours for the public began.
In order to gain long-term strength and continuity in the work, the Ytterby Gruva Foundation has been formed. It must secure the financing of the association’s activities. After several years of negotiations, the foundation has received a proposal from FortV to acquire the mine. There are still some formal issues to be resolved in order to transfer state property to a non-profit association. The foundation must also find sponsors. We are hopeful that these problems will be solved and that one of the association’s goals will thus be achieved. We have a lease with FortV which gives us full access to the land, the mine, the mine tunnel and the bailiff’s office.
The association’s objectives are:
- Create an exciting destination with guided tours.
- Facilitate and enable research in chemistry, geology, history of science, etc.
- Open the mine for education and deepening for both school students and university students.
- Make the Swedish chemical wonder visible via our website and social media.
We are happy that many people want to become members of the association. We need a proper foundation to broaden and develop our business. Among other things, we hope that some members will want to attend a short training course to become a guide in order to help with tours.