The Erzgebirge – a mining cultural landscape
The first discovery of silver near Christiansdorf (today Freiberg) in 1168 had a profound and lasting effect on the development of the entire Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains). From that date, thousands of miners, craftsmen, merchants and adventurers rushed to the mining region in search of work, luck and fortune. Over the following centuries, mining encompassed the entire mountain range and led to the founding of numerous mining towns and mining settlements on both the Saxon and the Bohemian sides of the Erzgebirge.
Due to the distribution of deposits, clearly geographically defined mining areas developed. In addition to silver and tin, other ores such as arsenic, lead, iron, cobalt, nickel, uranium and zinc, as well as non-metallic raw materials such as lime, kaolin, clay and coal were also extracted, smelted and, in many cases, processed. Over the course of centuries, mining in the Erzgebirge repeatedly flourished and declined, producing six chronologically distinct mining periods. With the closure of the uranium mines and the last tin mines in 1990/91, mining halted almost completely in the Erzgebirge.
But globally rising prices for raw materials in recent years have led to new explorations for deposits and the opening of the first new mine for fluorite and heavy spar near Oberwiesenthal. From as early as the 18th century, and with greater intensity from the start of industrialization around 1800, new trades and industries developed from mining in the Erzgebirge. Today these trades and industries continue to shape the economic structure of the region as one of the most densely populated low mountain regions in Europe.
For centuries, mining was the most important motor for the development of the Erzgebirge on both sides of the German-Czech border. Over 800 years of mining have had a lasting influence on the region, its people and culture, and led to the emergence of a mining cultural landscape of international importance. The influence of mining can still be felt and experienced today in the region in many areas of daily life. Not only a multitude of preserved, significant monuments are a testimony to the formative influence of mining in the region: it is also demonstrated by the vibrant conservation, deeply rooted in mining, of crafts, customs and tradition.
The intended date for the Mining Cultural Landscape Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří to be accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is 2018. This is a unique opportunity to preserve the Erzgebirge as a vibrant, developing cultural landscape of outstanding universal value for world heritage of mankind as a whole, to communicate the area to a worldwide audience and to give the region new stimuli for development.