The city of Chiatura, Georgia was founded among otherwise uninvitingly steep valleys and deep gorges thanks to a healthy vein of manganese that was ripe for the mining. However, the treacherous terrain was too difficult and inefficient for miners to traverse on foot, so the Soviet government installed a precarious network of dangling cable cars.
Amazingly, some of the original cable cars – rusted and deteriorating – were still running up until a few years ago. Now they have been retired, their stations shuttered and wagons hanging lifeless on the lines.
Founded in the late 1800s as a mining colony, Chiatura quickly became a popular source for manganese and iron that was being taken from the rich mountains in the area. Unfortunately, having workers travel from their communities at the bottom of the hilly gorges and canyons up to the various mining sites each day was incredibly time consuming.
So in an effort to get those bodies into those mine tunnels faster, a criss-crossing system of cable cars was installed in 1954 by the Stalinist government. The productivity and output in the mines dramatically increased with the high-flying “metal coffins,” which were also able to carry the ore itself directly to waiting factories.
After the collapse of the USSR, many of the mines closed down and yet the ubiquitous cable cars remained in use. Alas, upkeep of the lines and stations wasn’t quite adequate and the old ropeways were finally retired in 2018. Some of the 17-plus old stations will now be restored as cultural heritage monuments.
Meanwhile, as of September 2021, a new set of modern ropeways built by French company Poma ferries commuters and visitors around Chiatura. There are four new lines: Mukhadze, Lezhubani, Sanatorium and Naguti.
Know Before You Go
The old Chiatura cable cars are now retired and will be restored. A few of the stations are closed off with barricades, while the old wagons hang motionless on their lines.
Four new cable cars are fully operational and depart from Central Cable Car Station in the centre of the city. The lines are open from 8am-8pm with a break from 2pm-3pm. Tickets cost 50 tetri one-way.