The Altenberg-Zinnwald Mining Landscape is located close to the German-Czech border in the high mountain area of the Eastern Erzgebirge, thirty kilometres south of Dresden. It is the most easterly mining district in the Saxon Ore Mountains and the landscape is characterised by a gently sloping plain with occasional rolling hills and deep river valley dissections that gradually descend to the north. Outstanding example of a multi-layered tin mining landscape that gives evidence to the extraction of different types of tin ore deposits pioneering water management structures, and pioneering technologies in ore processing from the 15th century onwards.
Altenberg contained the largest deposit of tin ore in Central Europe. The mining region is considered a pioneering place in ore processing, from the 15th to the late 20th centuries. Although mining ceased in 1991, the landscape still documents the relationship between the long lasting mining activities, the development of agriculture and mining settlements as well as environmental impact of mining.
The ore crushing and concentration facility Wäsche IV is located at the head of the Tiefenbach valley, some 250 meters southeast of the rim of Altenberger Pinge. The technical monument is exceptional testimony to the technology of wet stamping: pounding as opposed to grinding, with the innovation of introducing water to the ore during crushing. This process was developed in the Ore Mountains in the 16th century, and became the principal method applied to profitably treat high-volume and low-grade tin ores of the Altenberg-Zinnwald Mining Landscape. The invention was rapidly adopted in the rich tin mining fields of Cornwall, Great Britain, where it revolutionised ore recovery and output. The method subsequently diffused worldwide and could be applied to other ores.
The facility, in addition to its stamp mill, contains a complete system of ore concentration. Following the end of operations in 1952, Wäsche IV was opened as a museum in 1957.
The Vereinigt Zwitterfeld zu Zinnwald mine was exploited from the 15th century onwards, and large mine structures are preserved underground documenting the mining technologies of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The mine is publicly accessible and its preserved underground workings provide excellent examples of processing methods used in the 16th and subsequent centuries together with a range of structural geological and mineralogical exposures that reveal the nature of the tin deposit and the way it was exploited.
The mines and structures are components of the recently inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Erzgebirge Mining Region. This cultural landscape provides the setting for this year’s European Heritage Volunteer’s project, which is also expected to form part of the 2020 UNESCO World Heritage Volunteers campaign.
The inventive techniques for processing rocks and extracting ore in this region attest to the determination and ingenuity of humankind in adapting to overcome their limitations through technological advancement. These processes at the time of their first use were a height of mining technology, bringing progress and innovations which would reverberate throughout the world. The participants will be in close interaction with the tools and the processes which forged the nature and history of this cultural mining landscape. The first task will be at the ore crushing and concentration facility, where the hammers of the wet stamping process developed in the Ore Mountains in the 16th century are still located. The work will require repairing the main support structures over the hammers. The works will be led by a master of carpentry who has additional an education as “Restorer in Handicraft”. Through his guidance, the participants will be able to have a glimpse into the traditional skill of this highly respected German artisan work.
The second part of the works during the project will revolve around the visitor’s mine, a museum dedicated to illustrating the unique mining techniques utilized during the middle ages for stone cracking through fire developed in the Ore Mountains. The main task to be accomplished by the participants is to help extend the underground museum to allow more space for the exhibition. The participants will not only engage in the practical work but will also exercise skills in museology. They will conceptualize the exhibition disposition and prepare the area that will accommodate the demonstrative installations displaying a historical reconstruction of the process.
The project will take place from August 2nd, to August 15th, 2020 and is organised by European Heritage Volunteers, in cooperation with Saxon World Heritage Coordination and the Altenberg Mining Museum & Zinnwald Visitor Mine.