Model of the Styrian Erzberg, 1915

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
This model donated by the Austrian mining company Österreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft (ÖAMG) shows the topology and exploitation status of the Styrian Erzberg as it was in 1913. References to the discovery of this most significant iron ore deposit anywhere in the Alps date back to the 8th century CE.
Ever since the 14th century the economic area around the Erzberg in the Austrian province of Styria has been split into the territory north and south of the Präbichl mountain pass; even the Erzberg itself was split into the upper Vordernberger and the lower Innerberger (= iron ore ) mining district by the Ebenhöhe.
In 1625 the economic problems prevailing in the late 16th and early 17th century led to the merger of the three linking elements that made up the Innerberger iron trades – the Radwerke (with the water-wheel powered furnaces), the Hammerwerke (hammer mills) and the Eisenverleger (iron traders) – to form the Innerberger main union. The collaborative management at the Innerberger Erzberg reduced the number of smelting furnaces and resulted in the construction of a higher capacity transport system. In the Vordernberger mining district, however, the extraction of iron ore and its removal over the Präbichl Pass proved difficult and inefficient due to the considerable number of disorganised mining claims that were operated individually – until the early 19th century. The co-operative agreement of 1829 provided for an economic alliance with the Vordernberger owners of the water-wheel powered furnaces and for the construction of a shared rail-based system by Johann Dulnig. And it was only in 1891 that it was replaced by a new standard gauge rack railway, establishing a through-connection suitable for mass transportation between Eisenerz and Vordernberg.
With coke iron gaining ground on international markets, local production of charcoal iron was being squeezed ever harder, and so, in 1881, six of the Monarchy’s main iron and steel producing companies were consolidated into the Austrian mining company known as Österreichisch-Alpine Montangesellschaft. The model shows the plant and equipment operating in the industrial quarter, the large braking incline, the new ore reservoir built in the lower section of the Gloriette ridge between 1909 and 1911, and the Sybold ore heap dating from the 1830s. The six rows of roasting kilns are connected with the mine-cart track running along the western slope of the Krumpental valley via the branched bridge section across the Erzbach river. The route of the Erzbergbahn railway line is recreated in meticulous detail, from the Schichtturm tunnel in Eisenerz across the entire Hintererzberg right through to the east portal of the Platten tunnel on the Feistawiese.
Today, the mining company VA Erzberg GmbH employs around 210 people producing approx. 3 million tonnes of shipment ore a year, with six to seven trains a day delivering the ore to the metallurgical works at Donawitz and Linz. The comprehensive modernisation of the mine implemented against the backdrop of a significant upturn in market prices over the past decade and a half has made the Styrian ore fines the most competitive base material for domestic steel products. In addition, VA-Erzberg also employs staff involved in ‘non-ore-related activities’, mainly in mining technology and tourism. Beyond the mining area itself the Montanuniversität Leoben [University of Mining] is currently building a tunnel research centre, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019.

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