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Depiction of Georgius Agricola from 1556
Symbol of mining:
mallets and irons
Remnants of the scaffolding above the “San Vicente” shaft in Linares , Spain

The mining is part of the mining industry ( Latin mons , mountain ' ). It is used to describe the prospecting and development ( exploration ), extraction and processing of mineral resources from the upper crust of the earth using technical equipment and aids.

According to the modern, comprehensive definition, mining includes the required surveying ( mine clearance ), mine management tasks ( ventilation and water drainage ), social security systems ( miners' funds ), special training centers ( e.g. mining academies ) and mining supervisory authorities . As a Montanist we all referred to mining-related issues. In the German-speaking world, the terms mining , extraction of raw materials of mineral and fossil origin, and mining and metallurgy were and are also common. The extraction of geothermal energy also belongs to the mining sector.

Depending on whether the deposits of mineral resources can be reached in mines (“ underground ”; →  miner's language ) or in open-cast mining , there are different mining methods .

Mining activities are regulated worldwide by the respective mining law within national legislation.


Today the extent and location of the deposits are mostly investigated by geophysical exploration . This preparatory work is often carried out outside the mining sector, by scientific institutions and authorities. From prehistory to modern times, many deposits - for example ore veins - have been discovered through their visibility on the earth's surface ( outcrops ). The mining of deposits in the deep sea will become increasingly important in the future .

In Germany, mining is basically regulated by the Federal Mining Act, in other countries by comparable legal provisions. The public body to which legal control is entrusted is called the mining authority , in Austria the mining authority . In Switzerland, jurisdiction under mining law lies with the cantons.


Depiction of historical mining on the Annaberg mountain altar from 1522 ( St. Anne's Church in Annaberg)
Miners in the tunnel 1961

Prehistoric and early historical mining

The oldest form of raw material extraction, known as mining, goes back to the occasional use of flint deposits in the Stone Age . Small work teams went to flint mines for a few days to obtain raw material for the manufacture of equipment. In Stone Age cultures (North America, New Guinea), this method of working has been maintained in some cases up to the present day. The exploitation of Mediterranean obsidian deposits is also considered the work of casual miners.

A permanent or seasonal mining operation requires agriculture with surpluses and trade, as the miners have to be fed without being able to produce food themselves and produce more products themselves than the community can use. The prerequisites for this were usually only given in the Copper Age ( Naqada culture / copper mines of Timna in Egypt). Iran's copper mines are Stone Age and over 6,500 years old. The heyday of the Cypriot mines began 4,000 years ago.

There was probably around 3000 BC. Already ore mines in India and China . A on 3000 BC Gold mine dated to the 3rd century BC is documented in Georgia. Around 2500 BC The copper mining began in Central Germany . Iron ore was used from around 800 BC. Mined in the Alps . In Central Germany, a furnace from the La Tène period in Wilnsdorf bears witness to mining around 500 BC. From. The mining of hard coal has been known in England since the 9th century .

Flint mines

In parts of Europe archaeologists discovered flint mines in the soft chalk underground :

  • in Great Britain ( Grimes Graves 2300-1700 BC),
  • in France, Belgium and Holland ( Rijckholt , approx. 4500-2500 BC),
  • in Germany, Jutland and Poland.

The prehistoric miners sank up to 15 m deep shafts in flint bearing layers and laid routes . Hoes made from deer antlers and stone were used as tools. In Obourg in Belgium an abortive prehistoric was Bergmann found with his equipment.

Ore mines

The great demand of the advanced cultures of the Middle East for metals was met early on from European mines, which were probably opened up by prospectors . Copper mines in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia were dated to the 4th millennium BC ( BC ) by ceramic finds. In Rudna Glava ( Serbia ) vertical shafts penetrate 25 m deep into the mountain. In Kőszeg , Hungary , archaeologists found next to an old copper mine a forge with metal bars, bronze remains and clay nozzles from bellows, clay inserts for molds, a clay crucible and over 50 stone molds. Stone molds and devices that point to such workshops are also known from Špania Dolina ( Slovakia ), Great Britain ( Alderley Edge , Cheshire ) and Ireland ( Mount Gabriel ).

The best-researched copper mining area in Europe is that of Mitterberg in the Salzburg region . There was there in the late 2nd millennium BC 32 BC ore mines. Calculations showed that 200 miners, ironworkers and auxiliary workers must have worked here at the same time. The ore was removed from the pit wall by heating the rock and quenching it with water. The Bronze Age shafts were up to 100 m long. The chalcopyrite ore was carried out of the mine in baskets. Shafts that connected the tunnels lying one above the other provided air circulation. Tree trunks ladders with step notches gave the miners access to the tunnels.

Washing plant in the silver mines of Laurion ( Argileza )

The copper mines of the Iberian Peninsula were already 2500 BC. Developed through a Copper Age culture ( Los Millares ). From here the Bell Beaker people spread metallurgical knowledge in Europe. In ancient times the Laurion silver mines were famous. There slaves worked for Athenian citizens. The Romans continued to exploit the old mines in Tartessos, Britain and Dacia (Romania) and opened new ones in other provinces. They introduced new techniques, e.g. B. Bucket wheels to drain the mines, as well as ore washing systems.

Mining in the Middle Ages

The heyday of medieval mining in Central Europe was the 13th century. It declined in the 14th century, mainly because no new deposits were discovered. From the middle of the 15th century a new boom set in.

In the European Middle Ages mainly silver , copper , iron , lead and tin ores were mined. Even the salt mining was important. The monasteries also played a very important role as mountain lords. In many cases, the German miners imparted their expertise in regions further away, for example in France (e.g. Alsace , Vosges ), Hungary , Italy (e.g. copper ore in Tuscany ) and Sweden . The process also took place in the context of eastern colonization . German mining entrepreneurs were involved in Swedish mines.

Important mining areas in the Habsburg monarchy were in Carinthia , Styria , in the Salzkammergut and in Tyrol as far as Trient . The Schwaz silver treasure became a decisive factor in the financing of the Habsburg empire plans.

The first mountain order issued in 1185 by Bishop Albrecht of Trient. The Bergregal was then with the king, in the late Middle Ages it changed to the sovereigns . The Golden Bull also contained a framework under mining law.

In the late Middle Ages, the horse peg was an important relief in conveyor technology . The "frog lamp" made of sheet iron began to prevail over the fragile clay lamps and the expensive cast bronze lamps; The fuel here was animal fat and vegetable oil. Of course, hand tools were used to dismantle them.

Mining law

Since the development and exploitation of deposits is very time-consuming and cost-intensive, it is important for mining companies to have a high level of contract and investment security. This contrasts with the interests of the state in obtaining the highest possible taxes and duties from mining. Customers and recipient countries want security of supply and low prices.

There are two basic legal understandings and conflict resolution mechanisms with regard to local ownership of natural resources:

  1. the principle of the mountain shelf and / or mountain freedom . The raw materials are decoupled from property. The mineral resources are claimed either by the sovereign (mountain shelf) or the state (state reservation) and can be lent by them, or they are considered ownerless, whereby ownership of them only arises through state lending,
  2. the principle of landowner mining . Here the landowner is the owner of the mineral resources. On public land, the finder acquires rights to his find. This view comes from the English common law .

The French Civil Code and the legal systems based on it represent a mediating point of view. The aboveground mineral resources belong to the landowner, those underground to the state.

Depending on the location, course and development of raw materials, this also results in conflicts due to different legal traditions, regional authorities and contractual regulations.

The discovery or possible development of extensive raw material deposits can exacerbate existing territorial conflicts and problematic border-drawing issues, as well as lead to new legal instruments. An example is the 200-mile zone for coastal states. Successful cross-border conflict settlements such as the European Coal and Steel Community (as the forerunner organization of the EU ), the North Sea Oil or the Spitsbergen Treaty established a stable basis for international cooperation.

Mining raw materials

The raw materials extracted in mining can be divided into three large groups: element, energy and property raw materials.

The group of elementary raw materials includes basic materials for metallurgy and chemistry .

The group of energy resources includes the hydrocarbons , coal and uranium .

The group of property raw materials includes stones and earths , including industrial minerals and bulk raw materials , as well as precious and semi-precious stones :

Methods of raw material extraction

Miners, 1952

A distinction is made between three methods of extraction for the development and extraction of raw materials that can be extracted by mining:

Mining locations

Where are the most important raw material extraction areas on earth?
If you would like to see a copy of this map "freely movable" in large format (5.6 MB) with a legend visible at the same time, follow this link


Environmental impact

Environmental impacts and economic upheavals caused by mining facilities are documented early on. From the Middle Ages to the modern age you can find many reports of the so-called " mountain screams " and gold rushes . Dumps and smelting in the vicinity of the mines led to the development of galme flora and heavy metal lawns in the Middle Ages .

The environmental history considered mining in the area of industrialization as the basis of change of industrial and cultural landscapes and their change. According to Günter Bayerl , as early as the 18th and 19th centuries, the landscape was transformed into industrial areas and metropolitan areas like rehabilitated and regulated 'quasi' nature . The special experiences of the new federal states are relevant for the consideration of the classic mining areas in the west. In East Germany before and after the fall of the Wall, there was, according to Bayerl, the phenomenon of environmental protection through standstill due to industrial shutdown and population emigration .

When setting up a mine, an infrastructure must be created that enables removal, regardless of the type of raw material extraction . If the mining area is - as is often the case today - in remote wilderness regions, the construction of roads or railways and the creation of workers' settlements inevitably have a far-reaching impact on the natural environment. Experience shows that in the course of time further facilities and thus new settlements and further roads emerge along the traffic routes, which at least intensify the subdivision of natural landscapes and the destruction of habitats .

A large number of the conflict areas of indigenous peoples can be traced back to measures to extract raw materials. A vivid example of the subsequent developments in mining projects is the construction of the ore railway in Swedish Lapland , which has played a key role in the development of the scarcely populated north since the end of the 19th century.

Kiruna - Narvik ore railway

Opencast mining in particular - which is assuming ever larger dimensions due to the increasing demand for raw materials - is the most massive form of landscape change and has far-reaching effects on the natural balance and the water table in the regions concerned. When it comes to the destruction of natural ecosystems that have not been influenced so far, open-cast mining now ranks first in comparison with agriculture, settlement and traffic. Sometimes settlements are also affected that have to give way to opencast mining. A well-known political issue in this context is the Garzweiler opencast mine in the Lower Rhine Bay . On the other hand, there are also opportunities for renewal in the context of recultivation measures. Opened pits and quarries can become valuable biotopes. The establishment, drainage, ventilation and protection as well as the subsequent use of mines and the associated coal and steel industry result in a multitude of innovations and innovations in the legal, planning, entrepreneurial and technical environment.

In addition to the aforementioned effects, mining can lead to various emissions of toxic substances into the air and water. Major environmental scandals of this kind with considerable health risks for the population were known from the gold mines in South America, where large amounts of highly toxic mercury were released into the environment. Other problematic substances in the extraction of metallic ores are phosphorus and sulfur compounds, heavy metals or radioactive substances in the extraction of uranium. When it comes to oil and gas production, a. in Western Siberia or in the Niger Delta through permanently defective systems (drilling rigs, pipelines, etc.) to enormous contamination of soils and waters, which depending on the ecology can be irreversible.

According to the World Nuclear Association , coal in all deposits contains traces of various radioactive substances, especially radon , uranium and thorium . When coal is extracted, especially from open-cast mines , through exhaust gases from power stations or through the power station ash, these substances are released and contribute to terrestrial radiation exposure through their exposure path .

In December 2009 it became known that millions of tons of radioactive residues are produced annually in the production of oil and natural gas , the majority of which are disposed of without evidence and improperly, including 226 radium and 210 polonium . The specific activity of the waste is between 0.1 and 15,000 Becquerel per gram. In Germany, according to the Radiation Protection Ordinance of 2011 , the material already requires monitoring from one Becquerel per gram and must be disposed of separately. The implementation of this regulation has been left to the responsibility of the industry; for decades it disposed of the waste carelessly and improperly.

While the mining companies in the industrialized countries are making efforts to prevent or minimize these emissions, the requirements and measures in the countries of the third world are often inadequate.

Examples of significant environmental impacts of various mines see u. a. Yanacocha (Peru, gold), → Chuquicamata (Chile, copper) → Rössing mine (Namibia, uranium) → Grasberg mine (West Papua, gold and copper) → Pangunamine (Papua New Guinea, copper) → Lusatian lignite mining area ( Germany) → El Cerrejón (Colombia, hard coal) → McArthur River uranium mine (Canada, uranium) → Niger Delta (Nigeria, conventional oil) → Athabasca tar sands (Canada, unconventional oil) → Bayan Obo mine (People's Republic of China, rare Earth )

The American Blacksmith Institute has been determining the top 10 most contaminated places on earth since 2006 . Mining companies are often among the polluters. Worth mentioning here are Kabwe in Zambia (lead and cadmium), Norilsk in northern Siberia (nickel, copper, cobalt, lead), Dalnegorsk in the far east of Russia (lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony), Sukinda in northeast India (chromium ) or Tianying in central China (lead and other heavy metals).

Panorama photo of the Garzweiler opencast mine with the power plants in Grevenbroich-Frimmersdorf (left) and -Neurath as well as Bergheim-Niederaussem (right) in the background

Post-mining landscape

Mountain damage

Mining professions and universities

Over the centuries, a large number of job profiles in mining have emerged.

Today is in Germany at three montane scientific (including universities Bergakademie called), Freiberg University of Mining and Technology , the Technical University of Clausthal and the Rhine-Westphalian Technical University of Aachen mining related courses offered. The Georg Agricola Technical University in Bochum and several other mountain schools also offer mining-related courses.

In Austria there is only one university for mining and metallurgy : the Montanuniversität Leoben , also called MU Leoben or Montanuni for short .

In Switzerland you can get a master's degree in tunneling from the University of Lausanne .

See also

Portal: Mining  - Overview of Wikipedia content on mining


  • Georgius Agricola : De re metallica libri XII . Basel 1556.
  • The instructing miner. An easy to read reading and educational book for children and adults . Friese, Pirna 1830 ( ).
  • Karl Bax: Treasures from the earth. The history of mining . Econ, Düsseldorf 1981, ISBN 3-430-11231-1 .
  • Karlheinz Blaschke, Gerhard Heilfurth: Mining . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , Sp. 1946–1952.
  • Franz-Josef Brüggemeier , mine gold. The age of coal from 1750 until today. CH Beck, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72221-9 .
  • Wilhelm and Gertrude Hermann: The old mines on the Ruhr. Past and future of a key technology. With a catalog of the "life stories" of 477 mines (series Die Blauen Bücher ). 6th, expanded and updated edition. Verlag Langewiesche, Königstein im Taunus 2008, ISBN 978-3-7845-6994-9 .
  • Ernst-Ulrich Reuther: Introduction to mining. A guide to mining technology and mountain economy . Glückauf, Essen 1982, ISBN 3-7739-0390-1 .
  • Ulrich Borsdorf (Ed.): Underground - Above - Miners' Life Today . Beck, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-406-30833-3 .
  • Wolfram Kaiser, Arina Völker (Hrsg.): Montanmedizin und Bergbauwissenschaften. Hallesches Symposium 1986 (=  Scientific contributions from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg . Volume 63, 23 ). Halle an der Saale 1987.
  • Lothar Suhling: opening up, winning and promoting. History of mining . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1983, ISBN 3-499-17713-7 .
  • Mining and metallurgy. Literature from four centuries (16th to 19th centuries). From the historical holdings of the RWTH Aachen University Library . In: Bernd Küppers (Hrsg.): Bibliography of historical mining literature . Shaker, Aachen 2002.
  • Hans Röhrs : Ore and coal: mining and ironworks between Ems and Weser . Ibbenbürener Vereindruckerei, Ibbenbüren 1992, ISBN 3-921290-62-7 .
  • Hubert Rickelmann , Hans Röhrs : Ibbenbürener hard coal mining from the beginning to the present . Schöningh, Paderborn / Munich / Vienna / Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-506-77223-6 .
  • Hans Röhrs: The early ore mining and the iron and steel industry in the Tecklenburger Land . Ibbenbürener Vereindruckerei, Ibbenbüren 1987, ISBN 3-921290-23-6 .
  • Hans Grothe (Ed.): Mining (=  rororo technology lexicon ). Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag, Reinbek 1972, ISBN 3-499-19044-3 .
  • Hermann Cramer: Contributions to the history of mining in the province of Brandenburg . No. 1-10, 1872-1889 . Halle 2010, ISBN 978-3-941919-62-4 ( - eBook [facsimile], Potsdam 2010).
  • Bueck, Leidig: The miners' strike in the Ruhr coalfield January-February 1905 . Potsdam 2009, ISBN 978-3-941919-35-8 .
  • IBA Fürst-Pückler-Land (Hrsg.): Mining sequence landscape . JOVIS, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86859-043-2 .
  • Friedrich P. Springer: From Agricola's “pomps” in mining, “which pulls the water through the wind”, to the rod-type deep pumps in oil production . In: petroleum, natural gas, coal . No. 10 , 2007, p. 380 (year 123).
  • Friedrich P. Springer: About cameralism and mining . In: The cut . tape 62 , no. 5-6 , 2010, pp. 230-241 .
  • Lothar Köhling: Time travel in depth . Memories of a miner. Ohrlad, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-941335-14-1 (audio book, approx. 100 min, read by Josef Tratnik).
  • Christoph Bartels , Rainer Slotta (ed.): The old European mining. From the beginning to the middle of the 18th century. Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2012, ISBN 978-3-402-12901-2 .
  • Klaus Tenfelde , Stefan Berger , Hans Christoph Seidel (Hrsg.): History of the German mining industry. 4 volumes, Aschendorff Verlag, Münster 2012, ISBN 978-3-402-12900-5 .

Web links

Commons : Mining  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Mining  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Mining  Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. § 3 of the Federal Mining Act : Mining free and locally owned mineral resources
  2. Austrian Mineral Resources Act § 2 and § 3. ( Memento from January 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 208 kB)
  3. Günter Tiess: Berg Legal foundations in Switzerland . In: Legal basis of raw materials policy . tape 1 : Selected countries in Europe. Springer Vienna, 2010, ISBN 978-3-211-09454-9 , pp. 128 .
  4. ^ Helmut Wilsdorf: Cultural history of mining. An illustrated journey through times and continents . Verlag Glückauf, Essen 1987, ISBN 3-7739-0476-2 , p. 15-49 .
  5. ^ Gold rush in the Caucasus . July 31, 2008 ( ).
  6. L. Suhling: opening up, winning and conveying - history of mining. 1983 (for all information on the Middle Ages).
  7. a b c Newer tendencies in environmental-historical research. Conference reports Hsozkult, Graduate College Interdisciplinary Environmental History, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 2004, by Richard Hölzl, Isabelle Knap, Mathias Mutz.
  8. a b c Thomas Oertel: Investigation and evaluation of geogenic and anthropogenic soil heavy metal accumulations as the basis of a geo-ecological environmental analysis in the Eisleben-Hettstedt area. (PDF; 252 kB) Dissertation Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Chapter 2: Environmental changes in mining regions. Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, 2003.
  9. a b "Mining" in developing countries - challenges and approaches. ( Memento of January 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) Website of Misereor, Aachen, 2011. Accessed January 15, 2014.
  10. Worldwide: Indigenous Conflicts - Report 57 - December 2011 . Website of the association " Freunde der Naturvölker eV" accessed on March 12, 2013.
  11. ^ Yvonne Bangert (ed.): Indigenous peoples - marginalized and discriminated. In: Human rights report No. 43 of the Society for Threatened Peoples. - August 2006 for International Day of Indigenous Peoples.
  12. Rolf Kjellström: Samernas liv Carlsson Bokförlag, Kristianstad 2003, ISBN 91-7203-562-5 (Swedish).
  13. Background text on oil and gas production in Western Siberia. Society for Threatened Peoples , June 2005, accessed January 15, 2014 (The article is very out of date.).
  14. ^ Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM), World Nuclear Association. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  15. ^ Radiant sources ( Memento from December 20, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Radioactivity (archived) ( Memento from December 8, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  17. Forum Environment, Development: Digging to the point of "no longer working"? Raw material boom - raw material curse. In: Forum Environment and Development - circular. No. 4, 2010, ISSN  1864-0982
  18. Hartmut Bossel : Environmental knowledge - data, facts and relationships. Springer, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 1990/1994, ISBN 3-540-57225-2 .
  19. Top Ten Threats 2013 (PDF) from the Blacksmith Institute.