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Work in the Mines

by Alexander Sohm last modified 2007-01-08 12:10

In 1996, Emil Scheibenstock wrote in his book:  Mining in the Montafon went on for hundreds of years and during this time, mining methods changed.  Mining pits are the oldest method.  Rocks containing ore were collected or the miners searched the surface for them.  No equipment was necessary for this. The traces left behind are the flat, wide shallow pits, called sink holes – some of which can still be seen today.  Once this easily accessible ore was exhausted, they switched over to underground mining.  Whether a vein of iron ore was found accidentally or intentionally, a tunnel was driven once profitability was assessed.  The hard work of the miners then began with their boss telling them to get to the vein of ore as quickly as possible. 

Various methods were used: 

The first one was The Fire Method.  Artificially heating the rock led to it cracking since different minerals have different rates of expansion.  This method had a bad reputation because of the dangerous accumulation of smoke so it wasn’t used very often.

The second method was Propulsion with a pick and axe:  With this method, a miner sometimes didn’t get any further than 1 or 2 centimetres in a 10 hour day.  A so-called fissure, a not very deep, perhaps one meter long crack was made in the place where they hoped to be able to break large rocks out.  Once the fissure was made, iron wedges were driven in and large boulders, some weighing tons were actually broken out. 

Another method was to use a so-called shot.  Here, they would put gun powder in the fissure.  This method only became popular after the height of the Montafon mining period.  It wasn’t until 1666 that explosives were used.  After they were broken off, the rocks were dragged outside and laid on goat skins where they were separated by hand from the surrounding, worthless rocks and transported on horseback, often directly on the pack saddle, to the grinding machine which was run by water.  The worthless rocks stayed where they were in front of the tunnel entrance.  These piles, which rise up out of the earth can be seen everywhere today.  The ground up iron ore was then melted in a smelting oven.


P04-2 work in the mines.mp3

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