Bălan
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Twelve kilometres of Sândominic(Hungarian: Csíkdomokos), heading upwards the Olt Valley we can find Bălan (Hungarian: Balánbánya), one of the youngest towns and industrial centres of Harghita County. The mining town lies in the narrow valley of Olt, to the west side down hills of the beautiful and picturesque Piatra Singuratică (“solitary rock”, Hungarian: Egyeskő) and the Öcsém Peak. The location is isolated, but not a dead end. Its main street continues along the Olt and connects to the 12C national road of Gheorgheni-Lacu Roşu (Gyilkos-tó) at the so called "4-es kilométerkő" (“4 Kilometre Stone”) campsite in Gheorgheni (Hungarian: Gyergyószentmiklós). In 1954 it obtained the urban-type settlement status, but until 1967 as far as the administration concerns it was part of Sândominic, and in 1967 became an independent town.

The copper deposits of Bălan were discovered by Opra János, a poor Csango shepherd in the 18th century. The local mining industry has its beginnings earlier in the 15th and 16th centuries. At the time of the national principalities, the mining consisted of extracting iron and not copper. We also know that Bethlen Gábor Prince allowed 150 furnaces to work in Bălan. By 1702, iron stores had been depleted, but the workers from Sândominichave continued the iron ore extraction for a while hoping to earn a little.

The exploitation suspended for more than a century was restarted at the beginning of the 1880s. The copper deposits gotinto the Government’s hands, and later on were bought for 5000 Hungarian forints by the Armenian family Zakariás, fact which led to the development of the mining industry in a short time. A joint stock company wanted to buy this mine, but the Zakariás brothers refused to sell. Then the competition opened a new quarry and seduced the workers of the Zakariás’ mine with bigger wages.  The two mines united that way had been functioning with professionalism and enormous profit. In 2006 the mine was closed, a place that had provided many jobs for the people of Upper Ciuc.

Around the end of the century the location of the mine became larger, the number of the population being more than 1000, with a majority composed of Szekler people and some had migrated from Bucovina. In 1910 the number of residents increased to 5391 of which only 39 were foreign speakers. According to the census carried out in 2002, the city had only 2700 inhabitants of Hungarian nationality from almost 8000.

Near the location we can find the spring of the Olt River, the Piatra Singuratică, Tarcău Mountain (Hun. Tarkő), Hăşmaşu-Mare (Hun. Nagy-Hagymás), quoting Orbán Balázs, the place is the “Szekler Switzerland”. Due to its natural conditions the city and its surroundings have become tourist attraction. Numerous tourist paths have their starting point in the town and lead to the rocks mentioned before.

One kilometre north from the town, in a beautiful setting, between the pine trees, lies a large reservoir of the mining town which was established on the Olt river. The artificial lake is a beloved hiking destination.

 
 

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