The Annaberg District Lower Austria.
The old mine workings near Annaberg in Lower Austria are situated within a mountainous woodland spreading out around Hocheck Peak (1343 meters) about 2.5 km from the town. From the village of Schmelz at the site of an old smelter, visitors can hike to the mines in about an hour. Three different mine groups are known: (1) silver workings including the Sankt Anna and Sankt Joachim mines, (2) lead-zinc workings including the Sankt Joannis von Nepomuceni mine, the Galmeikogel shaft and adjacent small prospects, and (3) iron-ore workings closer to the town of Annaberg and the so-called Lilienfelder Schurf (= pit).
Most of the underground workings have collapsed over the centuries and are not currently accessible. However, the massive dumps which remain from these operations indicate that the silver workings must have been extensive. The only other evidences of mining in the area are a small gypsum prospect, an old hard-coal mine adjacent to the town, a small pyrite prospect and a small fluorite prospect.
The oldest of the mine workings in the Annaberg area is undoubtedly the iron mine, mentioned in a document written by the Abbot Gregor IV of Lilienfeld in 1499. In 1710 Abbot Sigismund offered cannonballs made of Annaberg iron to the Imperial War Department, but they proved to be of poor quality. The iron mine finally closed in 1835 and, aside from a short period of exploration in the Lilienfelder pit during World War II, never reopened.
In 1751 a Jesuit who was "an expert in the field of mineralogy" visited Annaberg and filed reports with the government in Vienna. They caught the interest of a scientist and Royal Imperial Hofrat named Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi (1720-1771), who that same year went to Annaberg to investigate for himself. Justi was a student of alchemy and wanted to find some bismuth ores to use in his experiments. In Annaberg he made the acquaintance of a local postal clerk and innkeeper named Johann Burger, who showed him a number of specimens including an "alkaline silver ore." Silver ore of that type, he said, had been collected clandestinely by the locals for 40 or 50 years, but because of its special character they had not succeeded in extracting pure silver from it.
Justi returned to Vienna with the specimens, confirmed that they were rich silver ore, and ultimately made the information public. He wrote:
After I had discovered the new mine in Annaberg and its richness had become known to everyone, people from Vienna and all over Austria began to look for minerals. Since kindhearted Mother Nature provided the whole country with numerous minerals, a large number of specimens - from good to worthless - have been brought to the Royal Imperial Mint Office and also to me for examination and analysis. It has not been unusual for large blocks of wallrock to be sent in because people had heard that Annaberg ore looked like plain limestone. Consequently everyone began thinking that all rocks were gold or silver ores.
Naturally, after the discovery of these plain-looking ores, alchemy enjoyed renewed popularity among scientists who saw it as new evidence of the transmutation of "inferior" minerals into valuable gold and silver.
On April 25, 1752, the new silver mine was inaugurated by the Abbott of Lilienfeld. The new mining company created to oversee its exploitation was divided into 128 shares held by notables such as the Empress Maria Theresia, the Archbishop of Vienna, Professor Justi, Johann Burger, and other clerical and secular leaders. Only miners from Steinfeld in Carinthia were hired, none from Saxony or Hungary, so that "access to this holy location should never be granted to a non-catholic."
The innkeeper Burger sold his shares to the Empress Maria Theresa in 1753 for the princely sum of 12,000 gold florins. Unfortunately he died shortly thereafter. Professor Justi served as Mine Director at Annaberg until 1753 (he was described as being "exceedingly proud, uneasy, and insensitive"). He later died as a prisoner of the Prussians in Kustrin fortress in 1771.
An extensive amount of documentation dealing with the mine was generated, since the mine management had been required to transmit monthly reports to Vienna. Their reports included many details of mining and smelting activities, and also of payments issued by the Bruderlade, an early social security fund established for miners. Several thousand files and historical maps of the mines are still preserved today in the Royal Imperial Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna.
Because the profitability of the mines fluctuated drastically, the shares changed hands often. The enterprise had begun promisingly; already by October of 1752 a total of 5,684 marks (1,590 kg) of refined silver had been delivered to the mint in Vienna. When another silver lode was discovered nearby in 1758, several hundred specially minted Ausbeutetaler ("profit dollars") were coined, and another was issued in 1765. About 20 years ago a modern commemorative edition of this coin was minted of pure silver (the originals were high in sulfur and copper).
In 1756 the Royal Imperial Administrator of Mines, Matthias Zipser, was dispatched to Annaberg to study the mines, since the end of their productive life was in sight. They were finally declared exhausted in 1767, after having yielded over 5,600 kg (12,000 pounds) of silver. A staff of 20 miners continued gleaning operations until 1780.
In order to smelt the Annaberg ores locally, a smelter had been constructed in 1760 at the bottom of the valley. Up to that time, ore had been shipped to Zarnovice (then in Hungary) for processing. A steeply increasing zinc content in the ore resulted in the construction of a brass foundry in 1765. (The copper necessary to make brass was brought in mainly from Hungary.)
Because lead was required for the refining of silver, and had to be brought in from Carinthia at a high price, Johann Burger's widow opened a small lead mining operation on an occurrence near the Galmeikogel shaft; she named it the Sankt Joannis von Nepomuceni mine.(*)
The output of silver and lead from the Annaberg district was remarkable, considering that most of the mines were in operation for only 15 years. Most noteworthy mineralogically, however, was the discovery in the lead workings of a yellow mineral that would ultimately be given the name wulfenite.
Roughly 70% of Austria is within the Alps, and 30% is forelands and extra-Alpine Basement (Bohemian Massif). Many hundreds of metallic and non-metallic mineral deposits have been mined in Austria; as of 1986, 65 mines (including coal) were still in operation, of which six were exploiting metalliferous orebodies. Most of the country's mineral production has come from the Eastern Alps, including Lower Austria (Niederosterreich).
The Eastern Alps extend for about 500 km east-west, forming an elongated zone of mountain ranges. They are built of allochthonous sheets, many extending for hundreds of kilometers but typically being only a few kilometers thick. The mountain-building Alpine Orogeny peaked in Cretaceous-Tertiary time, but frontal movement of the Calcareous Alps continued into the Miocene, resulting in a complex tectonic structure. The Eastern Alps are divided into a Northern Zone and a Central Zone, the former being the location of the Annaberg district. The Central Zone consists primarily of an igneous/metamorphic basement overlain by Paleozoic, Triassic, Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous strata. The Northern Zone contains mainly sedimentary rocks of Permo-Triassic to Eocene age with Paleozoic metasediments and volcanics.
The Northern Zone is further subdivided into (1) the Flysch and Helvetic Zones, (2) the northern Calcareous Alps, and (3) the Grauwacken Zone. Annaberg is situated in the middle of the Northern Calcareous Alps; about 60 lead-zinc occurrences are known in the Northern Calcareous Alps, and many small mines exist, though none is still in operation. Most are concentrated in the far western section of the belt, but Annaberg is situated in the east, along with several other lead-zinc deposits (including Schwarzenberg near Turnitz, Brandmauer near Puchenstuben, and Kohlanger near Frein). The Annaberg mines and the small Arzriedel mine near Trubenbach/Otscher lie within Anisian (lower Middle Triassic) carbonates whereas the other occurrences are in the Ladinian (upper Middle Triassic) Wetterstein Limestone-Dolomite.
The following pre-Alpine units are found in the Annaberg area: At the bottom of the sequence is the Sulzbach unit, which has been uplifted by an anticline so as to be exposed in a tectonic structure called the Schmelz Window. Above this is the Reisalpen unit, forming the northern and northeastern boundary of the Schmelz Window. Highest in the local sequence is the Unterberg unit, which has been thrust over the others from the south, forming the rest of the border of the Schmelz Window.
The mines around Hocheck Peak (Sankt Anna mine, Sankt Joachims mine) are situated in the Anisic Annaberger and Gutensteiner limestones, passing into the Wetterstein dolomite of the Sulzbach unit. The deposits in the vicinity of the Galmeikogel shaft (including the Sankt Joannis von Nepomuceni mine) lie within the Gutensteiner Limestone of the Unterberg unit, and to a very small extent within the Wetterstein dolomite of the Reisalpen unit.
The three mineralogically most interesting mines in the Annaberg area are the Sankt Anna, Sankt Joachim, and Sankt Joannis von Nepomuceni. Economically the most important was the Sankt Anna, which began production in 1752. The upper level was named the Theresienstollen ("Theresia Tunnel"); there were also four lower levels and mine entrances, all connected by shafts. The vertical extension of the mine totalled about 95 meters (309 feet). It was well known because of repeated discoveries of very rich silver-bearing pockets. Unfortunately, all but the Theresienstollen is inaccessible today due to the collapse of tunnels, entrances and stopes. Stutz (1807), however, gives the following description of the workings:
We descended into the mine through the third level and went to a depth of about 40 meters. After we had examined the wooden roof-supports, the boreholes, the extraction of ore, the haulage facilities, the wooden ore cars, the disposal of the waste rock, and the poverty of the stope, we ascended through the second level, about 80 meters above the third level. We met only four miners in the workings, who were barely earning a living. What you find is gray limestone with a very few inclusions of silver ore, a brown ocherous rock type that contains some lead ore, and a liver-brown, soft, clayey schist which is very unlikely to be silver-bearing. Some ore could be found on the dump, especially by looking for blue and green spotted rocks; but it is very poor.
On the hillside opposite Hocheck Peak is the Sankt Joachims mine, opened in 1753, which produced some silver and lead-zinc ore. The workings are still accessible through one entrance. However, further descent into the old workings is highly inadvisable because of extremely dangerous conditions, especially around the old ore chutes.
The third important lead-zinc mine in the Annaberg area is the Sankt Joannis von Nepomuceni mine (hereinafter referred to simply as the Nepomuceni mine), located near the Galmeikogel shaft, several hundred meters from Hocheck Peak. It was opened in 1765.
A few years ago I succeeded in entering this mine and descended into the old workings. A close examination and survey was made (see mine map), and a number of wulfenite crystals were found.
Several other small prospects exist in the Galmeikogel area, but they are of negligible importance.
[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED]
Rich ore samples from the Annaberg mines have been preserved in various historical collections, including those at the Lilienfeld Abbey, the Seitenstetten Abbey, the Joanneum in Graz, and the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. They carry the old mineral names, such as Glaserz, Rothgultigerz, Sprodglaserz, Silberschwarze, and Silberhornerz. Most specimens appear to consist primarily of acanthite and native silver with small specks of proustite. The complex assemblage, currently under study at the Joanneum, includes pearceite, tiny green spherules of chlorargyrite, and tetrahedrite-tennantite.
A few specimens containing tiny, citrine-yellow crystals to 0.5 mm were found on the dump of the Sankt Joachim mine at Hocheck Peak. Analysis showed the crystals to be adamite.
Greenish to pale blue lumps consisting of a mixture of aurichalcite, malachite and minor azurite were found in a small Cu-Zn zone at the top of the Galmeikogel shaft. Nice, brush-like aurichalcite tufts are rare. Some aurichalcite has also been found in the silver workings.
The lead ore consists partially of Schwarzblei, a black mixture of galena and cerussite. Sharp crystals of cerussite to 1 cm were found in the Nepomuceni mine.
Very attractive microcrystals of descloizite have been found in the Nepomuceni mine. The pale brown to deep black crystals always occur singly on a carbonate matrix, and never as crustiform aggregates, as at Carinthia and elsewhere.
A heyite-like mineral at the Nepomuceni mine has been identified by the Styrian Research Institute at the Joanneum in Graz. Analysis shows approximately the same composition but a completely different habit. It occurs as yellow coatings on and replacing wulfenite and vanadinite.
The construction of a bridge near the village of Schmelz uncovered a highly oxidized zone of mineralization containing the finest crystals of mimetite ever found in Austria. The yellow-green acicular crystals are highly lustrous. Associations include minor cerussite and smithsonite in a carbonate matrix. Specimens of modest quality have also been found in the old silver mines.
Until a few years ago, only a single specimen of vanadinite from Lower Austria was known to exist. It was described by Sigmund (1904):
Vanadinite, of which a nice specimen was found 12 years ago on the eastern slope of the Gsenger by Mr. Haberfelner of Lunz . . . whose collection still contains the sample of this rare mineral species, has only this once ever been reported to occur in Lower Austria. I have seen the specimen and offer a short description: It occurs as brown, hexagonal, columnar crystals up to 2 mm in length, covering an area of about 30 square centimeters on dolomite.
Table 2. "Lead spar" minerals as noted in Ignaz von Born's 1772 catalog, in Latin, with modern English translations. LATIN ENGLISH PLUMBUM SPATOSUM calciforme induratum LEAD-SPAR limestonelike opacum album, amorphum, e Przibram hardened opaque white Boh. amorphous, from Pribram, Bohemia. - hyalinum, e Windischleiten ad - transparent, from Schemniz Hung. inf. Windischleiten near Schemnitz, Lower Hungary. - e Villach Carinthiae. - from Villach, Carinthia. - ad Zellerfeld Hercyniae. - from Zellerfeld, Harz. - e territorio Sulzbach. Palatinat. - from the territory of the Super. former manor of Sulzbach. - e Platomine ad Winster in - from the Platomine near Derbyshire Angliae. Winster in Derbyshire, England. - virescens opacum, e Lorenz - greenish, opaque from Gegentrum ad Freyberg Sax. Lorenz Gegentrum near Freiberg, Saxony. - virescens stillatitium, ad Freyburg - greenish, drop-shaped, Aust. anter. ad Przibram Boh. from Freiberg, Upper Austria, from Pribram, Bohemia. - caerulescens opacum, e Platomine ad - bluish, opaque, from the Winster in Derbyshire Angliae. Platomine near Winster in Derbyshire, England. - caerulescens hyalinum, e - bluish transparent, from Windischleiten ad Schemniz Hung. inf. Windischleiten near Schemnitz, Lower Hungary. - caeruleum opacum, ibid. - blue opaque, same location. - flavescens effervescens, - yellowish effervescent, Carinthiae. from Carinthia. - flavo rubrum pellucidum, ex - yellow red transparent, Annaberg Aust. from Annaberg, Austria. - cinerescens, e fodina Trinitatis - ash-colored, from the ad Tschopau Sax. Trinitatis-mine near Tschopau, Saxony. - nigrescens, ibid. - blackish, same location. - nigrum, e Windischleiten ad - black, from Windischleiten Schemniz Hung. inf. near Schemnitz, Lower Hungary.
I have confirmed this historical description through recent discoveries of more vanadinite in the stopes of the Nepomuceni mine. The new specimens feature pale orange to dark red crystals, mainly hexagonal prisms, measuring 1 to 3 mm in size.
The mineral later named wulfenite was known during the productive period of the Nepomuceni mine, and was referred to by mineralogists of the time. The first published description appeared in 1772, in the collection catalog of Ignaz von Born. He listed all of the "lead ochres" and "lead spars" known at the time, which were represented by specimens in his collection. The entry, in Latin, which modern mineralogists ascribe to wulfenite identified the mineral as "plumbum spatosum flavo rubrum pellucidum, ex Annaberg Aust." ("lead spar, yellowish red, transparent, from Annaberg, Austria").
Another line in the catalog lists "plumbum spatosum flavescens effervescens, Carinthiae" ("lead spar, yellowish, effervescent [in acid], from Carinthia").(*) Some mineralogists have concluded that this, too, refers to wulfenite, but wulfenite does not effervesce in acid. Most likely it was a yellowish cerussite. The locality designation of "Carinthia" might well have referred to the famous wulfenite occurrence at Bleiberg, but might just as well have applied to other lead mines in the province (e.g. the Hochobir mines, the Mezica mines, or the workings at Jauken or Schwarzenbach among others). Consequently this entry is not sufficiently precise to establish precedence, and probable does not refer to wulfenite anyway.
Ignaz von Born's collection was sold to the British collector Charles Greville, and was subsequently obtained by the British Museum of Natural History (in 1810), where it is still preserved intact along with Born's handwritten catalog. The catalog specifies the locality of the yellowish effervescent lead spar as the town of Villach in Carinthia. Unfortunately, such old specimens have lost their pedigree in the British Museum collection, and the wulfenite cannot now be specifically identified as having been Born's.
The next probable reference to wulfenite from Annaberg is a report by Stutz (1777); writing on the mineral history of Austria, he states:
The occurrence of the yellow lead spar can be described as follows: It is not mined. Therefore I could not obtain any samples. A few broken lead[spar] crystals were available from Mr. Siegel [the mine surveyor], but I wanted to obtain some crystals on matrix. However, these are very rare even when being mined, because only in care cases does the brittle matrix rock stand the work of the miners without falling apart.
During the following 200 years, wulfenite from Annaberg was described by many other writers, including J. F. Gmelin (1778). In 1845 Wilhelm von Haidinger named the yellow lead spar after the Jesuit naturalist Franz Xavier von Wulfen, in honor of Wulfen's magnificent work describing the lead spars of Carinthia (Abhandlung vom Karnthnerischen Bleyspate, published in Vienna in 1785). Wulfen's wulfenite, however, was from Bleiberg, not Annaberg.
A few years ago, collectors succeeded in recovering some wulfenite specimens from old workings in the Nepomuceni mine. The loose yellow to orange crystals are identical to 18th-century specimens from Annaberg that have been preserved in the collections of the Natural History Museum in Vienna and the Joanneum in Graz.
The 1772 entry in Born's published catalog (predating Wulfen's 1785 work) is brief, but it specifies correctly (1) the major element - lead, (2) some degree of transparency, (3) color, (4) its spar-like nature, and (5) its specific locality. Aside from a morphological description, there is not much more that could be said in 1772 (molybdenum had not yet been discovered as an element). Furthermore, the specimen on which this description was based probably survives somewhere in the British Museum collection, with the rest of Born's collection. Consequently it must be concluded that Born's 1772 description qualifies as the first scientific description of wulfenite, and that "Annaberg" is the type locality. Field work has further confirmed that the Nepomuceni mine is the actual source of Annaberg wulfenite, and is therefore the correct type locality, rather than Bleiberg.
I wish to thank my colleagues for joining me so often on collecting trips into the old silver workings of Annaberg, especially Mr. E. Nistelberger of Schmelz; Mr. G. Leister of Graz and Mr. N. Volkerer of Gloggnitz. Special thanks to Mr. A. Lintner of Pottschach and Dr. Wendell E. Wilson for providing a competent English translation of this article, to Mr. G. Knobloch of Aggsbach-Dorf and to Mr. P. Huber of Wiener Neustadt for providing photographs. I also wish to thank all of the museums and researchers, especially Mr. J. Taucher of the Joanneum in Graz, and Mr. Tandy of the British Museum of Natural History in London for their support during the preparation of this paper. Last, but not least, I wish to thank my wife, Eva, who often had to do without my presence, so that I could complete this work on the history and mineralogy of Annaberg.
* Editor's Note: St. John of Nepomuc (ca. 1350-1393), canon of the cathedral of Prague and vicar of the archdiocese, was tortured and drowned in the Moldau River for opposing the tyranny of King Wenceslaus IV. He was canonized in 1729.
* There is some disagreement over the correct translation of flavescens, which might instead be read as "begins to become yellowish" while effervescing. Of course, there may simply have been a thin carbonate coating on the sample which could effervesce momentarily. In any case, the word effervescens is enough to preclude this mineral from being unambiguously identified as wulfenite.
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|Title Annotation:||old mines|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 1998|
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