Excursion Germany, Austria, Italy and France 2014

In September 2014, the BBK I undertook a trip through Germany, Austria, Italy and France. Within 18 days we visited 14 interesting destinations, these included several open pits, underground mines, suppliers and historic mining areas. All visited destinations are shown in the following figure.


Germany (North/East)

On 31.08.2014 the Sigmundshall mine of K + S Kali GmbH, in which both sylvinite (1.1 million t / a) as well as hard salt (1.2 million t / a) are mined, was visited. That was followed by a visit of the repository mine Konrad:


The „Steinexpo“ was attended. As every third year the fair was held in Europe’s largest basalt quarry „Hochberg“ of Mitteldeutsche Hartenstein industry AG in Homberg (Nieder-Ofleiden). After visiting the Steinexpo, we have visited the potash mine Hattorf-Wintershall. The works Hattorf and Wintershall are part of the Werra plant, which is operated by the K + S Kali GmbH.
In the Central German lignite mining region, we visited the United Schleenhain open pit mine. In order to follow the processing chain of coal, we were given a guided tour in the to the briquette and dust factory of Deuben, as well. Furthermore, the „Glückauf“ mine in Sondershausen (GSES mbH) was visited. Here, rock salt is mined for de-icing purposes since 2005.


After arriving at the Steiermark, a ride through the historic mining area „Styrian Erzberg“ near Leoben was conducted. The following figure shows the Styrian Erzberg viewed from the historic city of Eisenerz (“Iron Ore”):


After this historical insight, one of the largest, modern underground mines in Austria, the Magnesitbergwerk Breitenau, was visited. It conducts both underground and open pit mining. We continued the journey via Kainach. First we visited the marble mine Kainach (Omya GmbH). During the approach we were able to clearly identify the different stratification in the digestion of the mine:


The mining method employed in the steeply dipping deposit, the Vertical Raise Mining, was of particular interest to us due to its uniqueness. For each of the steeply dipping chambers a raise bore hole is created from the surface, which opens into an underground cross-cut. The chamber is then mined out by drilling and blasting from an mobile working platform in the raise..
On the same day, the marble quarry, operated by Alpha Calcit, was visited, too. Also the quarry of Gummern (Omya GmbH) as the second largest open pit operation in Austria was visited.
The tungsten mine of Mittersill (Wolfram Bergbau Hütten AG) presented a further opportunity to explore the diversity of alpine underground mining. A variety of mining methods can be seen here including backfill operations.


In South Tyrol, the marble mine Vipiteno Omya AG was visited. Here, high-quality marble is mined in large underground chambers. At the adit of the mine, we also had the opportunity for a nice group photo with the local wildlife:


Right after this mine tour, we drove towards the Schneeberg. The Schneeberg with the 2700 m high Schneebergscharte is a historic mining district between the Ridnauntal and the Passeiertal. The Schneeberg hosted mining activities of different types of ore since 1237. For a taste of the territory and the particular difficulties of ancient access and transport, we conducted a hike up to the miner’s settlement St. Martin:


After a night in the historic refuge, we descended underground at the following day:



In Colmar (Alsace), we visited the factories of Liebherr France SAS. In addition to the field of hydraulic mining excavators also smaller machines for civil ground motion are produced. In addition to the visit to the sites we had the opportunity to discuss the mining crisis with representatives of the management.

Germany (South/West)

Back in Germany, the rock salt mine in Heilbronn was visited. In contrast to the previously toured salt mines, is produces only rock salt. Our final mine visit was then done at the underground gypsum mine Hüttenheim of Knauf Gips AG.