Great Copper Mountain (Stora Kopparberg) was a mine that operated for a millennium from the 10th century to 1992. It produced as much as two thirds of Europe's copper needs and helped fund many of Sweden's wars in the 17th century. Technological developments at the mine had a profound influence on mining globally for two centuries. Since 2001 it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a museum.
Archaeological and geological studies indicate, with considerable uncertainty, that mining operations started sometime around the year 1000. Objects from the 10th century have been found containing copper from the mine. In the beginning, operations were of a small scale, with local farmers gathering ore,smelting it, and using the metal for household needs. Around the time of Magnus III of Sweden, King of Sweden from 1275 to 1290, a more professional operation began to take place. Nobles and foreign merchants from Lübeck had taken over from farmers. The merchants transported and sold the copper in Europe, but also influenced the operations and developed the methods and technology used for mining. The first written document about the mine is from 1288. It records that, in exchange for an estate, the Bishop of Västerås acquired a 12.5% interest in the mine. By the mid 14th century, the mine had grown into a vital national resource and a large part of the revenues for the Swedish state in the coming centuries would be from the mine. The then King, Magnus IV of Sweden, visited the area personally and drafted a charter for mining operations, ensuring the financial interest of the sovereign.
In the 17th century, production capacity peaked. During this time, the output from the mine was used to fund expansionary politics of Sweden during its great power era. The Privy Council of Sweden referred to the mine as the nation's treasury and stronghold. The point of maximum production occurred in 1650, with over 3,000 tonnes of copper produced.
Copper production was declining during the 18th century and the mining company began diversifying. It supplemented the copper extraction with iron and timber production. In 1881 gold was discovered in the Great Copper Mountain, resulting in a short-lived gold rush. But there was no escaping the fact that the mine was no longer economically viable. On December 8, 1992 the last shot was fired in the mine and all commercial mining ceased. Today the mine is owned by the Stora Kopparberget foundation which operates the museum and tours.References:
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