The site

The Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří (Ore Mountains) spans a region in south-eastern Germany and north-western Czechia, which contains a wealth of several metals exploited through mining from the Middle Ages onwards. The region became the most important source of silver ore in Europe from 1460 to 1560. Mining was the trigger for technological and scientific innovations transferred worldwide. Tin was historically the second metal to be extracted and processed at the site. At the end of the 19th century, the region became a major global producer of uranium. The cultural landscape of the Ore Mountains has been deeply shaped by 800 years of almost continuous mining, from the 12th to the 20th century, with mining, pioneering water management systems, innovative mineral processing and smelting sites, and mining cities.

Tin ore was discovered in the region of Ehrenfriedersdorf, 34 kilometres south of Chemnitz, in the 13th century and was mined until the early 1990s. Some silver was also extracted from the local mines, as well as a wide variety of minerals.

The mining landscape of Ehrenfriedersdorf is inextricably linked with the invention of the pioneering technique water pumping system – the Ehrenfriedersdorfer Kunstgezeug – around 1540. This technology was soon applied in other mining regions in Europe and, together with the invention of the artificial linkage in Jáchymov in 1551, became the dominant water hoisting technology worldwide for more than 200 years. In Agricola‘s "De re metallica" such pumping systems are documented in use in the tin mining of Ehrenfriedersdorf in the middle of the 16th century. The original wheel chamber of the Ehrenfriedersdorfer Kunstgezeug is still preserved.

After the end of commercial mining in 1990 the mine was turned into a visitor centre, in which visitors are able to experience gallery ore mining typical for the Ore Mountains. At the Zinngrube (Tin Mine) Ehrenfriedersdorf Visitors’ Mine, comprehensive insights into the history and development of the oldest medieval tin mining area in Germany are provided by the archaeological remains and technological ensembles. These ensembles illustrate examples from the period of medieval surface mining and open-cast mining of the 14th century and extensive underground mining from the 15th to 20th century.

Outside of the mine, visitors to the site can discover the trails that run along the water system canals known as Röhrgraben. The Röhrgraben is one of the oldest artificial ditches in mining in the Ore Mountains. Its construction falls into the second half of the 14th century. The ditch was used to supply water to the stamp mills and washes as well as to the Ehrenfriedersdorfer tin works both on the Sauberg and in the Seifenbach Valley. Georgius Agricola also reported that the ditch was used to supply water to the Ehrenfriedersdorf artefacts. Until the mining in Ehrenfriedersdorf was stopped in 1990, the Röhrgraben also carried the water for the tin processing, at that time it was the oldest artificial ditch in Germany that was still in operation. The Röhrgraben is fully integrated into the network of hiking trails around the Greifensteine rock massiv.

The Zinngrube (Tin Mine) Ehrenfriedersdorf Visitors’ Mine Museum forms part of the Sächsisches Industriemuseum (The Saxony Museum of Industry) and part of the Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří Mining Cultural Landscape which is inscribed in the World Heritage Site List since 2019.

From the top of the mine headstock it is possible to view the mining landscape of the region, and to see displays related to the history of metal mining and the ways of life of the miners. A particular feature is the display of more than a thousand different minerals. Visitors are carried on a train into the old workings hundred meters below the surface, many of which are narrow and difficult of access.


The project

The project will consist of two parts – a practical working part and an educational part. The working part will last six hours per day. In the evenings and during the weekend, educational and cultural activities will take place.

The participants will be engaged in two works at the areas of the visitors’ mine, which will allow them to understand and learn about two important components that allowed this region to become a hub of industrial mining development through different stages in the mining history of the Ore Mountains.

The first work will take place at the Röhrgraben canal water system. The participants will be tasked with carrying out urgently needed conservation works on the wooden elements of the canals, helping to secure and repair damaged parts of the water system structure. The rotten beams have to be taken off, and new ones transported by hand to the respective sections of the canals, prepared and put on the place of the removed ones.

The other work will bring the participants underground to the tunnels of the visitor’s mine. There they will take part in conservation work on historical locomotives and trailers that were used for mobility and ore transport on the rails of the mine. The work will be guided by museum personnel in charge of the conservation activities at the visitor’s mine.

The educational programme will be complemented by lectures on the values of the UNESCO World Heritage site and the procedure involved in the recognition of the region as a place of significance under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, imparted by the Saxon World Heritage Coordination. Finally, guided visits and excursions to historical landmarks of mining heritage of the region will allow contextualising for the participants the works at the Zinngrube (Tin Mine) Ehrenfriedersdorf Visitors’ Mine and provide them with an overview of the interactions between the mining history and the local traditions of the communities living in the Ore Mountains.


The European Heritage Volunteers Project will take place from July, 16th, to July, 30th, 2022, and is jointly organised by European Heritage Volunteers in cooperation with the Saxon Ministry for Regional Development / Saxon State Office for the Conservation of Monuments, the Verein Welterbe Montanregion Erzgebirge – the World Heritage Association for the Ore Mountain Mining Region, the Besucherbergwerk Zinngrube Ehrenfriedersdorf – Zinngrube Ehrenfriedersdorf Visitors’ Mine and the town of Ehrenfriedersdorf. 

European Heritage Volunteers