The Rammelsberg is a mountain, 635 m high, on the northern edge of the Harz, south of the town of Goslar in the north German state of Lower Saxony. The mountain is the location of an important mine, the only mine which had been working continuously for over 1,000 years when it finally closed in 1988. Since 1992, the visitors' mine of Rammelsberg has become a UNESCO World heritage site.
The mining history of the Rammelsberg occurred as a continuous process in different phases. Initially the main product was silver ore, then later copper, and finally lead. The mines were exhausted only in the 1980s, and were shut down in 1988. The ore contained an average of 14% of zinc, 6% lead, 2% copper, 1 g/t gold and 140 g/t silver.
The analysis of unsmelted pieces of ore and slag found during archaeological excavations between 1981 and 1985 at Düna (near Osterode) in the South Harz indicates mining activity at the Rammelsberg in the 3rd century AD. Layers of an early settlement dated to about the 3rd or 4th century AD located about 25 miles south of the Rammelsberg contained not only pre-industrial melting equipment but also remains of ore, which could clearly be identified as Rammelsberg ore.
Because the Nazis saw the Rammelsberg with its metal ores as vital to the war effort and the difficulty of mineral dressing the ore had been technically solved (using froth flotation), the mine was greatly expanded as part of the Nazi's Four Year Plan. This led to the construction of the present-day surface installations in 1936/37 under the Rammelsberg project with their hillside processing plant and Rammelsberg shaft. The architects were Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer, by whom other important industrial buildings were designed (including the Zollverein in the Ruhr area, now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Closure and World Heritage Site
After more than 1000 years during which almost 30 million tonnes of ore were extracted, the mine was closed by the Preussag company on 30 June 1988 as the mineral deposits had been largely exhausted. A citizens' association argued forcefully against plans to demolish the surface installations and fill in the historic underground mine workings. Consequently the disused mine was developed into a unique museum to preserve its heritage and display the history of the mine and its industrial equipment.
In 1992 the museum became a UNESCO world heritage project together with Goslar's Old Town. In 2010 this world heritage site was expanded to include the Upper Harz Water Regale, Walkenried Abbey and the historic Samson Pit. The Rammelsberg Museum and Visitor Mine is an anchor point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH).
Master Malter's Tower
The Master Malter's Tower (Maltermeisterturm) is the oldest surviving above-ground mine building on the Rammelsberg and, probably, in Germany as well. It was built around 1500 on a slagheap on the side of the Rammelsberg. To begin with the tower was used to oversee the pits; from 1578 it was used as a bell tower (Anläuteturm). Since the mid-18th century the master malter (Maltermeister) lived in the tower hence the name. He managed the wood needed for the mine, which was measured in in malters. Hence the name of the tower.
In order to have enough water to drive water wheels during times of drought the Herzberg Pond was created in 1561. Since 1926, this has been used as a woodland swimming pool. Until the closure of the mine, water was used for cooling and the warm water was pumped back into the pond where it heated the swimming basin of the woodland pool.
In 2008 Goslar's "Old Town" and the Rammelsberg Mine formed the motif for the annually issued 100 Euro gold coins from the series of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.