London: A scenic area in north-west Wales known for its landscape of slate mines on Wednesday joined the likes of the Taj Mahal in Agra as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The United Kingdom’s bid for the mines to be added to the prestigious list was backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the World Heritage Committee approved the listing for the role played by the slate to roof many of the world’s iconic buildings.
It will now become the UK’s 32nd World Heritage Site and the fourth in Wales among the 1,149 across the globe, including the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt. “This distinctive corner of our country is already on the map, having sent its slate across Britain, Europe and even Australia, and a UNESCO accolade would only propel it further,” Johnson said in his backing for the bid.
A World Heritage Site listing is awarded to a landmark or area of significant historic importance and comes with legal protection against its destruction. Following the listing, UK Heritage Minister Caroline Dinenage described it as a ‘huge achievement and testament’ to the importance of the region during the industrial revolution.
“I welcome the prospect of increased investment, jobs and a better understanding of this stunning part of the UK,” she said. Welsh slate has been used on building roofs across the world since Roman times, with the sprawling quarry sites drawing thousands of tourists every year. The slate landscapes of Snowdonia in the county of Gwynedd are said to have “roofed the 19th century world” as slate from its quarries was exported around the globe.
The region became the world leader for the rock at its peak in the 1800s. Buildings that used Welsh slate include London’s Westminster Hall, Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, and Copenhagen City Hall.
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Today’s announcement recognises the significant contribution this part of North Wales has made to the cultural and industrial heritage not only of Wales, but of the wider world. Welsh slate can be found all over the world.
“The quarrying and mining of slate has left a unique legacy in Gwynedd, which the communities are rightly proud of. This worldwide recognition today by UNESCO will help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration,” Drakeford said.
Wales’ bid leader Dafydd Wigley addressed the UNESCO ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’ committee by video link from the National Slate Museum in the Welsh city of Caernarfon. “Here in Gwynedd we have an outstanding example of a complete landscape and this inscription is a source of great pride for our communities in North Wales and it’s a celebration of our contribution to the world,” said Wigley.
“We look forward to being part of the wider community of World Heritage Sites and this inscription has recognised our global contribution,” he said.
The mines have been awarded the status just a week after the city of Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles music group, lost its listing for new development near its waterfront. The World Heritage Committee said the projects had caused “irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property”.