Tarnowskie Gory Lead-Silver Mine and its Underground Water Management System

Date of Submission: 01/02/2013
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Silesian Voivodeship
Coordinates: N50°26'33.71 E18°51'04.42
Ref.: 5794

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Tarnowskie Góry lead-silver mine and its underground water management system is an exceptional example of a large scale mining network comprising some 50 km of drainage tunnels, over 100 km of access tunnels and excavated chambers and numerous shafts extending over 38 km2. Located in one of Europe’s classic metallogenic provinces it is one of the largest, best preserved and most accessible mine drainage networks in the world.

The monumental system was constructed in technically challenging terrain of highly permeable carbonate strata with unusually high water inflow, in gentle undulating topography with river beds at just slightly lower elevations and with corresponding shallow river gradients. Its effectiveness in water removal was such that the surface distribution of water was permanently altered, the water table was permanently lowered and pre-existing abstraction was rendered obsolete. The mine responded with the adaptation of its technical systems to provide a domestic water supply to the mining town and an industrial water supply to an entire region.

The site is the most significant part of a much larger (150 km2) area exploited for lead-silver ores from the 12th century to the early 20th century. Operations evolved from numerous small-scale artisanal operations to the large-scale industrial concern of Fryderyk Mine that operated from 1784-1910. Underground archaeology reflects a consistent regional hydraulic engineering strategy, begun in the mid-16th century and which adapted with changes in scale and technology over 300 years. Some key surface features and installations are included.

The drainage system is still functioning today and the historic network has been the focus of sustained conservation and public access by a community association since 1957.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver Mine and its underground water management system is an outstanding technical achievement in world mining engineering.  It represents the apogee of European adit drainage technology developed in parallel with European pumping technology diffused through a highly mobile mining culture from the mid-16th to mid-19th centuries.

Effective drainage technology enabled access to extensive, yet comparatively shallow (maximum -50m), bedded deposits that yielded high outputs of lead ore that had a significant impact on European markets. Lead exports further sustained silver smelting and the chemical extraction of silver from argentiferous copper ores in the major mining centres of central Europe, including Kutná Hora, Banská Štiavnica and Goslar.

The efficiency and scale of drainage rendered the traditional town water supply from wells obsolete and, beginning in 1797, the mine used steam powered pumping to supply domestic water to the citizens of Tarnowskie Góry and industrial water to enable development of the entire Upper Silesian Agglomeration.

The underground mining environment of Tarnowskie Góry, together with some of its related surface features, prompted an early conservation movement that continues to manage and care for the site and maintains access for scientific, educational and tourism purposes.

Criterion (i) Tarnowskie Góry mine represents a masterpiece of mid-16th to mid-19th century underground hydraulic engineering that represents an outstanding technical solution to a physical problem. The exceptional level of water infiltration (from above and below), due to highly permeable carbonate strata hosting the lead-silver ore body, was combated by the sustained development of gravitational adit drainage in technically difficult flat-lying terrain. The system represents the apogee of skills evolved within European mine drainage technology and is a major example of human creative genius that not only dispersed unwanted water from the mining environment but redistributed it to meet domestic and industrial needs of Upper Silesia.

Criterion (ii) Tarnowskie Góry mine exhibits key technical interchanges in mining engineering and metallurgical systems between Poland, continental Europe and Britain. It is an outstanding example from the Central European mining heartland that evolved through the tangible dissemination and fusion of ideas concerning technological development, across Europe, especially in the development of gravitational adit drainage and pumping technology. This was essential to the production of lead that was crucial in metallurgical processes involved in the extraction of silver in the major European mining centres and that contributed to the general economic and social development of Europe.

Criterion (iii) Tarnowskie Góry is one of Central Europe’s classic lead-silver mining regions with a mining tradition, established nearly 500 years ago, that still underpins a living culture distinguished by an unusual commitment of more than 50 years to conservation and public access to the historic underground mining environment.

Criterion (iv) The Site is an outstanding example of the development of gravitational mine drainage, pioneered in Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and its parallel adaptation to domestic and industrial water supply. It is a technological ensemble that represents a creative response to the drainage of technically difficult flat-lying terrain and a solution to the water supply problems that it, itself, first created. Its success, still operating today in the function for which it was originally designed, enabled the sustained production of lead, silver and other metals that made a crucial contribution to the industrial and economic development of Europe.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity: The cultural value of the nominated site is reliably and credibly expressed through the following principal types of attributes that make significant contributions to Outstanding Universal Value. These include:
Form and design of mining features below and above ground that exhibit the fusion of European technological ideas and installations, but that commonly display characteristic adaptation to the Upper Silesian mining environment and tradition. Examples include the exceptional adit drainage system that developed over a period of more than 300 years in parallel with, and in conjunction with, mining technology and cultural transfer from other European mining centres including those on the Continent and in Great Britain;

Materials and workmanship that is manifested by remains that demonstrate an evolution in techniques that contrasts early with later phases of mining development within the system. For example early and traditional mineshafts that were worked by artisanal miners with primitive technology and that leave both a distinctive underground form and regionally distinctive surface topography – contrasting with later (larger, fewer and technically specified) shaft design that is testimony to the migration of steam pumping technology from Great Britain;

Use and function, the authenticity of which is proven by a combination of reliable sources of information and detailed archaeological investigation. For example the historic records of mine drainage and its adaptation in the later-19th century as a public water supply, together with over 50 years of recent exploration, investigation and conservation;

Location and setting such as the highly authentic mining landscape that includes shaft mounds and shafts, adit portals and cuttings that deliver underground water to surface rivers.

Integrity: Tarnowskie Góry lead-silver mine is a property that contains attributes that form a system that is linked in terms of theme, chronology, typology, organisation and socio-economic factors. The boundary of the property, a substantial part of which is underground, is necessary to ensure that the geographical coverage and the overall size is sufficient to provide a complete representation of all the significant attributes that, together, express Outstanding Universal Value. It is the best and most significant system that is representative of a much larger regional group of workings that exploited this classic European metallogenic province.

In terms of technology interchange and technological ensemble, essential key interrelated attributes are included that demonstrate the functional integrity of the underground mining system and of the water supply system. These are in remarkably good condition, are deterioration controlled and remain free from the adverse effects of development.

Boundaries are delineated to include all the essential attributes that support the historical geographical-spatial integrity, as well as the structural and functional integrity of the system.

Comparison with other similar properties

Comparisons with other properties on the World Heritage List and with properties on State-Parties’ Tentative Lists highlight that Tarnowskie Góry lead-silver mine and its underground water management system is a prime example of the peak of the application of mine adit drainage technology developed within European mining culture. The combination of Tarnowskie Góry's large scale gravitational mine water drainage system, and its function that developed as a regional domestic and industrial water supply, is an exemplar of the sustainable way in which man adapted the exploitation of natural resources.

Tarnowskie Góry lead-silver mine and its underground water management system is one of the largest, best preserved and most accessible mine drainage networks in the world. The only other directly comparable system identified is the Great County Adit in the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site (UK).