Sulphur mines

Italian sulphur special page

The name of sulfur is synonymous of Sicily. In this island in the southern part of Italy outcrops a geological formation of Messinian age, called "gessoso solfifera". The formation is related to a very arid period and is characterized by large amounts of gypsum, potassium salts, sodium chlorates and other evaporitic deposits.

The name of the mines of sulfur in Sicily is "zolfare" from "zolfo", the italian name of sulphur.

The maximum of the mining activity was in the second half of last century when there was a very high request of sulfur for the confection of solphoric acid, used as reagent in a lot of industrial manufactures.

Due to the geological and structural complexity the mining system by injection of vapor to get liquid sulfur was unusable in the Sicilian mines, on the contrary of the american ones whose concurrence destroyed completely the extractive activity in Sicily. The mineral in Sicily was obtained by relatively low industrialized methods, with a large use if man power and in this way a lot of minerals were available for the private and museum collections.

The last mines closed at the beginning of the eighties and since then in practice there wasn't any major finding of sulfur.

The samples of this page have been collected in the seventies and have to be considered a rarity.

All the samples are very clear, limpid, perfect in termination’s and shapes and extremely brilliant. They are bitumen-free and very aesthetic. Among the best samples you can find in the market.

We have also few samples of very high quality, in case of interest we can send you pictures. 


From the geological point the mines are in the "gessoso solfifera formation" an evaporitic formation of Messinian age. Different genetic theories have been developed to explain the formation of the sulfur. One point is that the sulfur concentrations are very close to the surface or to faults or tectonic events with circulation of phreatic waters. The genesis of the sulfur has been explained as due to the transformation of gypsum in reducing environments. The reduction conditions have been ensured by the presence of hydrocarbons, generally bitumen, very often associate with the sulfur. There isn't a stratigraphic location of the sulfur: it is present at the bottom, top or middle of the gessoso solfifera formation.  


The sulfur mining activity is relatively recent in Sicily, at least for a country like Italy where the mining activity started with the Estruscoan, before Christ.

One of the main mines is Cozzo Disi, from which all the samples presented are derived.  The activity started in 1870.

The activity in subsurface started in 1882, with the first gallery to the lower levels.

The mining activity of this mine was interested and very often interrupted by firings very difficult to kill, like the one of 1887 that lasted up to 1891 . During 1911 the third level was opened due to the exhausting of the surface levels. From then the mining activity continued with subsequent galleries deeper.

The worse burning was in July 1016, in which 89 miners died and 39 were injured. In 1941 the extraction activity continued and some plants were erected for the utilization of the large quantities of bitumen extracted with the sulfur. The work for the extraction continued with different deeper galleries, down to the 11 level, while the work and the preparation of the 12t level were prepared. The total depth was of more than 300 m . The active mining activity lasted up to 1988. Down to 1991 the mine was kept active and in   a state of potential activity

With the regional law of May, the 15ht n.17. The mine was of the region and under the cultural department as "museum mine"

The minerals

The minerals of the "zolfatare" are not numerous, as typical of all the sedimentary ores, but they are of absolutely high aesthetic quality.

The first and most famous mineral is the sulfur, in bipyramidal crystals, generally terminated by the basal pynacoid. When the pynacoid is very developed we have tabular crystals. The crystals are usually on aragonite or calcite.

An other very important minerals is aragonite, in pseudo hexagonal crystals of greenish color, very aesthetic.

The gypsum in transparent XX sometimes including sulfur is very interesting.

Celestine, in crystals of 10, maximum 20 cm white or transparent, sometimes light blue.

The calcite, in scalenoedral crystals, generally of relatively small dimensions complete the typical paragenesis.

If you want to read more and see photos click here