No other form of industry has influenced the Erzgebirge as much as mining. It has created industrial sectors and economic success that have benefited people far beyond the region's borders. Producing blue paints from cobalt ore, for example, influenced the global success of Meissen porcelain.
The metal working and mechanical engineering industries in Saxony grew out of the metallurgical processing of mined ores. Many hundreds of medium-sized industrial companies in the Erzgebirge have specialised in these sectors. Well over 20,000 small and medium-sized enterprises make up the economic backbone of the region. Alongside metal working and mechanical engineering, there are also success stories resulting from the Erzgebirge's mining history in many other sectors, including automotive suppliers, electronics and electrical engineering, manufacturers of technical textiles, mechanical and plant engineering, semiconductors and environmental engineering.
The people of the Erzgebirge can therefore claim: "We have gone from underground to the top of the world." Freiberg is just one example of a successful transition from a history of silver mining to modern, advanced processing of raw materials. Where the first silver ore was discovered in the 12th century, there is now an internationally important location for the semiconductor and environmental industries.
Some 20 years after the last mines were closed, mining is set to make a comeback. The demand for raw materials such as zinc, tin, copper, fluorite and heavy spar, as well as rare metals like molybdenum, lithium and indium will continue to increase in the coming years, bringing the Erzgebirge's treasure trove of ores back into focus for manufacturers.
To publicise the Erzgebirge within Germany as a business and residential location, many personalities from all walks of life have been promoting the region as ambassadors since March 2010. Every region is competing for investors, specialist workers, tourists and residents. The Erzgebirge has to make itself sustainable and create its own identity. The World Heritage seal of quality, with its high level of recognition and reputation worldwide, could be of great benefit to regional and locational marketing. The much sought-after UNESCO World Heritage status is not just a bridge to the past, but also one to the future. A high level of recognition and a positive image of the region worldwide will also open up new perspectives for the economy of the Erzgebirge.