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May 9, 2021

Germany: Golsar, the Mines of Rammelsberg


The Rammelsberg mine

On the southern outskirts of Goslar Germany is the Rammelsberg mine.  Until the ore was depleted and the mine closed in 1988, Rammelsberg had been in operation for more than a thousand years.  Since the Middle Ages ores containing zinc, lead, copper, and smaller amounts of gold and silver, all deposited by an undersea smoker approximately 390 million years ago, had been pulled from the tunnels under the mountain.  At the time of its closure Rammelsberg held the distinction of being the oldest continuously active mine in the world.

When the mined ceased operation in 1988, the corporate owner’s planned to demolish its buildings and structures.  Announcement of the corporation’s intent was met with vehement opposition from the local community whose heritage was closely linked to the Rammelsberg mine.  In the end it was decided that the mining infrastructure would not be demolished:  The complex was judged to be an important piece of the history of the region.  In the end it was decided that rather than tearing down the mine it would be opened as a technical museum. 

Waiting for the tour inside the miner’s changing area

Support for the preservation efforts came shortly afterwards from UNESCO.  Four years after mining activities ceased at the site, with the new museum already accepting visitors, UNESCO inscribed the “Mines of Rammelsberg” along with the “Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System” on its World Heritage list.

Today visitors coming to Rammelsberg can walk through much of the old mine’s infrastructure by themselves.  It is also possible to join one of several guided tours, including one that takes the visitors into the mineshaft to see demonstrations of the mining process. 

Theoretically it is also possible with some planning to arrange English language tours.  But mostly the tours that were offered when we were there were in German.  As seeing is the biggest part of the experience, we joined two German language tours.  Though there was frequently some helpful German to English translations by bilingual Germans on the tour who enjoyed the language challenge, we mostly figured out the gist of the guides’ commentaries from the context.  The part we usually didn’t get was the jokes.

Language differences or not, visiting Rammelsberg is interesting and informative.  It’s a rare opportunity to see the bowels of an historic mine.  It provides a sense of how life once was in this place.

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We visited Goslar and the Rammelsberg in August of 2019.

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