The weight of ethnic tension which culminated in Kosovo's 1999 civil war brought the Stan Terg metal mine to its knees. Once the crown jewel of the Trepça mining complex, the operation was a formidable symbol of Tito's Yugoslavia until the early 1980s. But conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, beginning with the revocation of Kosovo's autonomy by Slobodan Milosevic and eventually leading to NATO's expulsion of Serbian forces from Kosovo, crippled the mine, still rich in lead, zinc, and silver.
Despite its frail condition, Stan Terg remains a beacon of potential for the newly independent Kosovar state- a possible bridge to economic self-sufficiency and the means, perhaps, to guarantee its newfound sovereignty.
As a state-run enterprise, the mine has been subject to the same power struggles native to the region. Pulled between ethnic-Albanian and Serbian leadership, Stan Terg has emerged as a historical microcosm for the ethnic strain, and offered a lens through which to consider both the local and statewide economic air of uncertainty.
Today, with few prospects in the region for the young, miners in their fifties and sixties have been left to provide for their extended families. But as they near the mandatory age of retirement, many express anxiety for the near future. Given the choice, they would rather continue to work.