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World Heritage Convention

Decision 41 COM 8B.25
Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System (Poland)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes the Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System, Poland, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (i), (ii) and (iv);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Tarnowskie Góry Lead-Silver-Zinc Mine and its Underground Water Management System is located in the Silesian plateau of southern Poland, in one of Europe’s classic metallogenic provinces. It is the largest, most significant and accessible complex of historic underground metal mines in Poland, preserved with sustained access by a community association for over sixty years. Further, it possesses a monumental underground water management system that reflects a 300-year development that is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering.

    The mining and water management system was constructed in flat and technically challenging terrain, a gently undulating plateau at an elevation between 270-300 m above sea level; the difference between the highest and lowest points amounts to less than 50 m. This is unusual in that most European metalliferous deposits are located in mountainous terrain, an occurrence that heavily influenced drainage techniques, in particular. The underground system at Tarnowskie Góry experienced up to three times the volume of water inflow compared to other major European metal mines at the time and eventually comprised a water catchment of over 50 km of main drainage tunnels and 150 km of secondary drainage adits, access tunnels, shafts and extraction areas. This surviving network is complemented by substantial remains of the principal water management infrastructure, both above and below ground, together with directly connected surface elements that comprise essential mining landscape features.

    In terms of comparable properties, no water supply systems have been readily found in any global geographical and cultural context, that were planned, integrated and managed as part of a contemporary underground metal mining system, illustrating how, in a surviving and fully accessible mine context, modern steam-pumped water systems were developed using mining technology. It is the integrated and symbiotic relationship of mineral extraction, mine dewatering and water supply, creatively developed at an early period under the same ownership, which sets Tarnowskie Góry apart as being exceptional.

    Criterion (i): Water Management System provides exceptional testimony to outstanding human technical creativity and application. It represents a masterpiece of mid-sixteenth to late-nineteenth century underground hydraulic engineering, its vast underground system representing the peak of European skills in such dewatering technology at a time when mining engineering provided the technical wherewithal for the development of the world’s first large-scale public water supply systems based on the steam-powered pumping of groundwater.

    Criterion (ii): Water Management System exhibits an exceptional interchange of technology, ideas and expertise in underground mining engineering and public water supply between leading mining and industrial centres in Saxony, Bohemia, Hungary, Britain and Poland. This led to the creation of a viable underground mine drainage network based on gravity free-flow, together with an integrated water pumping system that redistributed potable and industrial water to an entire region. This unique technical achievement, aided by the special natural attributes of the property, created a hotspot of industrial expertise that went on to influence industrial development elsewhere in Central and Western Europe. The system still functions in much the same way as originally designed, supplying drinking water to the inhabitants of Tarnowskie Góry; an operation devised over two hundred years ago but which would be considered sustainable if conceived today.

    Criterion (iv): Water Management System is a unique and enduring technical ensemble of metal mining and water management, distinguished by a significant output of lead and zinc that sustained international metallurgical and architectural demands of the time, and a water system that ultimately drained the mine by gravity and met the needs of the most industrialized and urbanized region in Poland, and amongst the largest in Europe.


    The overall size of the property provides a complete representation of all the significant surviving attributes of the mine and its water management system, supporting historical and geographical-spatial integrity as well as structural and functional integrity. The majority of the site is underground, and the small number of discrete areas delineated at surface are directly linked to it in the third dimension.


    The cultural value of the property is reliably and credibly expressed through: form and design of mine and water management features, both below and above ground; materials and workmanship manifested by original and intact physical and structural remains; and use and function fully understood through exceptional archives held in Poland, together with a gravity drainage and water pumping facility that continues in operation today. The property’s location, and setting, is still pervaded by highly authentic and characteristic mining features in the landscape.

    Protection and management requirements

    The State Party has designated the property for which the preservation is in the public interest and which it protects through various forms of legal protection. The World Heritage Centre of The National Heritage Board of Poland cooperates directly with the Management Board of the stakeholder partnership that is responsible for the protection and management of the nominated site at the local level. A Conservation Management Plan is being developed that will further guide protection, conservation and presentation of the attributes that carry Outstanding Universal Value.

  4. Recommends that the State Party gives consideration to the following:
    1. Finalising and implementing the legal protection at the national level of all the structures above ground within the boundaries of the property as well as those that, although in the buffer zone, are said to support the value of the property,
    2. Setting up a multidisciplinary scientific committee as an advisory body to the Steering Committee, to assist in scientific and research programmes,
    3. Confirming that the change of ownership of the pumping station at Adolph Shaft will not alter in the medium- to long-term the quality and regularity of the extraction of the water necessary to conserve the underground chambers,
    4. Developing an archaeological investigation programme with a focus on the underground element of phase I, to the extent this is possible, and of phase II, with a particular focus on the mining landscape,
    5. Considering the addition to the property of the historic water tower, immediately adjacent to Kaehler Shaft,
    6. Considering the extension of area A5 to join area A4;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.
Decision Code
41 COM 8B.25
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Decisions adopted during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (Krakow, 2017)
Context of Decision