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Mining in the Montafon

by Frießnegger Harald last modified 2007-01-08 11:27

During the past three years, the Montafon Heritage Society decided to make it their goal to make mining from the early days an adventure for people that are interested.

The first contribution came from a little book with the title „Miners, Shafts, Ore“ the history of mining in the Bartholomaeberg, Kristberg and Silbertal in a scientifically founded, easy to understand portrayal which was finished off in 1995.

The earliest accounts of mining in southern Vorarlberg come from the famous Rhaetian Empire reclaimed land in the year 842 AD.

Here we read that eight melting furnaces and an iron district were named “Ferraires Ministry”.  This district is without question between Bludenz, the Arlberg and the Montafon, where later the main mining areas were to be found.  Bartholomaeberg, Kristberg and Silbertal were the middle point of ore mining in Vorarlberg for hundreds of years. 

The height of the mining industry here was in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Silver, copper and iron were mined in over 100 mines.

The miner took his pick and axe into the sallow yellow light made from pine wood chips and surrendered his body to the veins of ore. Often he didn’t get farther than1 or 2 cm a day.

At the end of the 16th century, the mining industry came to an end because some of the mines were exhausted and also because of the influx of precious metals from the newly discovered world. 

There are a lot of reminders from the early mining industry like the magnificent St. Anna or Miners alter from the year 1525 which is in the parish church in Bartholomaeberg.  There is also the Miner’s Chapel – St. Agatha which is on the Kristberg and alludes to the village name of Silbertal.  In addition, the giant mounds of earth from the mines and the many different names of the meadows (Miner’s Pit, Melting Farm, Copper Laths) all bear witness to the “Silver Era” in the Montafon.

Mining Museum

On the 7th of December, 1996 the Mining Museum was officially opened by Federal Minister, Elisabeth Gehrer alongside of many prominent people from the areas of culture, economics and politics.  This beautiful museum can be found in the Silbertal Municipal Building.  There are 5 rooms where you can see a recreated mining gallery and mining car, a “mountain judge”, mining tools, documents and writings from long forgotten days.  One room has a display of ore and minerals.  Ore that was mined long ago like fahl ore which contains silver and copper, chalcopyrite (yellow copper ore), chalybite, and spathic iron ore.   One room in the museum is dedicated to Silver in the 20th century, water power and the work of the Vorarlberg Ill power plant.

Show tunnel

The most difficult and most expensive job was to find an appropriate show tunnel.  In Bartholomaeberg they tried to open the two largest tunnels with thousands of cubic meters of tailing.

In the first caved-in tunnel, they were able to find the opening, but it caved again a short time later.  The two tunnels in Worms only offered totally blocked entrances.  The opening up of tunnels on the Kristberg Mountain and in the Silbertal also failed.

In the end, they went to work in an open tunnel where ore was mined around the beginning of the 16th century and runs 137 metres deep into the mountain.  Like miners, they cleared out the tunnel and secured the dangerous spots with stamps and casings.    

The show tunnel, which is 1,350 meters above sea level was named after the miner’s patron, St., Anna, the main figure in the miner’s alter in Bartholomaeberg. 

From the church in Bartholomaeberg, the miner’s path, with its magnificent panoramic view, leads to the former mining area over “Linda” and “Schura” and to the St. Anna show tunnel. 

It is easy to picture the stories told on the tours about the creation and diversity of the local stones, ores, and minerals and their connection to the history of mining.  Next, we come to the Miner’s Chapel on the Kristberg and from there, on to the Miner’s Museum in the Silbertal.  Of course, you can take smaller tours like visiting the show tunnel and the Miner’s Church or the Miner’s Museum.


P03-1 mining in montafon.mp3

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