EuChemS Historical Landmarks Award plaque unveiled at Ytterby mine, Sweden

From left to right: Annette Lykknes, Vice Chair of the EuChemS Working Party on the History of Chemistry; Brigitte Van Tiggelen, Chair of the EuChemS Working Party on the History of Chemistry; Malin Forsbrand, mayor of Vaxholm municipality; Nineta Hrastelj, EuChemS Secretary General; Pilar Goya, EuChemS President, Nineta Hrastelj; Helena Grennberg, President of the Swedish Chemical Society (Svenska Kemisamfundet)

Famous for being linked to the discovery site of some eight chemical elements, Ytterby mine, deep in the Stockholm archipelago, celebrated the unveiling of the EuChemS Historical Landmarks Award plaque in recognition of the role it played in the history of Chemistry and shared European cultural heritage.

The mine was awarded the 2018 EuChemS Historical Landmarks Award at the European level following the recommendations of the Landmark Selection Committee and the decision of the EuChemS Executive Board.

The celebration, which took place on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April included an excellent symposium on the history of the mine and its discoveries, as well as the pivotal role it played in the history of Chemistry. Over 100 people attended the symposium and the ceremony, including representatives from the Swedish Chemical Society, the local municipality, Ytterby town, the Ytterby Gruva Foundation, as well as from EuChemS.

EuChemS President Pilar Goya, together with Malin Forsbrand, Municipality Chairman, unveiled the plaque at the entrance of the mine.

Many rare earth elements were discovered in the mine, including yttrium (discovered in 1794), erbium (1842), terbium (1842), ytterbium (1878). The discovery of gadolinium, scandium, thulium, and holmium are also linked to the Ytterby mine.

The mine and the elements discovered there drew many scientists from Sweden, as well as from across the Nordic countries, and from further afield in Europe, making it a unique historical and scientific site of centuries worth of international collaboration and ventures.

The mine was officially closed in the early 1930s, and was subsequently used as a military storage facility for fuel, food and water during the Cold War. The programme was stopped in the mid-90s, after which the mine was emptied of fuel. Scientists have more recently begun studying the inside of the mine again, noting the existence of unique bacterial life forms on the walls. There are hopes that by 2025, the tunnels and the inside of the mine will be made open to visits by the public.

Read more about the EuChemS Historical Landmarks Award here.

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