The Freiberg mining landscape is the oldest and most important area for silver extraction in the Erzgebirge. Silver was continuously mined in this area from 1168 until 1968. As the first mining town in the Erzgebirge, Freiberg was founded in 1168. Over time, many important mining landscapes – such as those around Gersdorf, Zug, and the Himmelfahrt mine – arose as a result of the town’s economic position, the discovery of rich veins of ore, and the implementation of various mining technologies. These mining landscapes are connected by a water management system comprising several elements – the Rothschönberger Stolln drainage gallery, the Freiberg RWA active mining water management system, and the Mulde river.
- Main Elements
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Gersdorf mining landscape
The mining area of Gersdorf originally belonged to the Cistercian monastery Altzella. The many artefacts indicate the presence of intensive silver ore mining here from the 12th century onwards. The lines of heaps and sinkholes still visible in the area date predominantly back to the Middle Ages. In total, there were over 200 shafts in this area. From the 17th century, the Segen Gottes main adit mine grew to become the most important of these, but was closed in 1885. Significant relics of mining activity still preserved today include the stone mine rescue constructed at the end of the 18th century, an ore canal, the upper and lower manmade ditches and the mouths of various motive-water leats. Two water-column engines remain intact in the machine room of the Adam-Stolln adit. The 18th century hoisting house, which was later converted to the mine’s administration and assembly building, has also survived.
Ore canal with mine in the northern part of the Freiberg mining district
The north section of the Freiberg mining district clearly illustrates the complex interaction between mining, smelting, infrastructure and social structures from the 18th century onwards. The world’s first smelting complex is located here, where the process of amalgamation was used to extract silver on a large scale. Workers’ houses and the spa bath heated by slag are evidence of the social structures that were present here. Silver ore processed in the smeltery was transported, primarily from the mines to the north, via a shipping canal (ore canal). The two barge lifts on the ore canal are believed to be the first ship lifts of this kind in the world.
Himmelfahrt discovery mine with Muldenhütten smelting complex
Ore was mined for over 800 years in an area north-east of Freiberg’s old town. The many small mines of the medieval period were united over the course of centuries to form the biggest and most modern combined mine in Europe. Numerous well-preserved mining systems and the lines of heaps in this mining landscape bear witness to this development. Ensembles of buildings such as the Reiche Zeche shaft complex, the Abraham shaft and the Alte Elisabeth mine confirm the extraordinary variety of machine technology that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The ore from the Freiberg mining area was originally smelted at many different sites in the region. As a result of state reforms, only two smelting complexes were ultimately left in existence; the oldest of these is situated in Muldenhütten. Once the largest and most significant smelting complex in the Erzgebirge region, non-ferrous metals have been processed here for at least 600 years. A number of new technologies were also developed at this site. From 1887 to 1953, Muldenhütten was initially home to Saxony’s State Mint, and then became one of several minting locations in the GDR. Today, this industrial complex is considered one of the oldest smelting sites for non-ferrous metallurgy in Germany to still be in operation.
Historic Centre of Freiberg
The discovery of silver ore in 1168 led to the founding of Freiberg, the oldest mining town in the Erzgebirge. The town developed into a mining centre of supra-regional economic, cultural and scientific importance. Important buildings, such as the mining authority offices, the mining university, Freiberg Cathedral and numerous town houses bear witness to the influence of mining. A further significant building is the former Kahla porcelain factory, built in 1913 as a post-mining industry.
Zug Mining Landscape
The Zug Mining Landscape connects the Freiberg and Brand-Erbisdorf mining areas. From the 16th century, silver, copper and lead ores were extracted here, as is evidenced by the many preserved buildings and lines of heaps. The Constantin/Drei-Brüder-Schacht underground power plant, built in 1913, demonstrates the subsequent use of mining installations, both above and below ground, to generate electricity at a time when overland supply was not yet widespread.
Brand-Erbisdorf Mining Landscape
Silver mining in the area around Brand-Erbisdorf dates back to at least the 13th century. It emerged as the most important mining area in the Freiberg mining district. During some periods, more than 20% of the total Saxon silver was extracted here. Its importance is demonstrated by the well-preserved mining surface buildings and the Thelersberger adit as examples of mining infrastructure.
After the closure of the mines, the Elite automobile plant was founded at this location in 1913 as a statesupported post-mining industry.
Active mining water management system
The Rothschönberger Stolln drainage gallery and the Aktive Revierwasserlaufanstalt Freiberg (RWA water management system) are two of Europe’s largest and most significant water management systems. Consisting of an extensive network of manmade ditches, leats and ponds, from the 16th century the RWA water management system drove the water-powered machines in the mines, the ore dressing works and smelting works. Constructed in 1844, the Rothschönberger Stolln drainage gallery is the deepest and most significant adit in the Freiberg mining district. Its construction marks the final stage in the global development of cross-regional drainage adits.