vorige Hefte

Volker Wollmann:
Mercury Mining in Transylvania to the Middle of the 20th Century

Mercury is a relatively rare element. As regards frequency of incidence/occurrence, it is 62 in the list of elements. Mercury was already known as a metal in ancient times. The Romans also used a considerable quantity of amalgams. After the discovery of the Mexican silver mines and the amalgamation process, the importance of Almadén for the Spanish economy increased enormously. In the last third of the 16th and first half of the 17th century, world demand for mercury was met by the large mines Almadén in Spain, Huancavelica in Peru and Idria in Slovenia. The mercury deposits located in the Transylvanian Ore Mountains, whose production fluctuated greatly, became more competitors of Idria from the 16th to 17th century. In the 18th century, the Viennese Court Chamber became very interested in the mercury deposits in Transylvania. At the end of the 19th century, mining operations were temporarily stopped almost completely as a result of low Hungarian production in 1901. The 40 tonnes of mercury were mainly produced in Transylvania.

This article, which is based on studies of the coal, iron and steel industry and industrial archaeology as well as on research in relevant archives, is the first attempt to deal with the history of mercury mining near Zlatna in Transylvania from its early beginnings to the present day. In contrast to other countries, which have just as long a tradition of mercury mining, not even the metal works of the last production period remain. Therefore, the author has tried to reconstruct these facilities as unique technical monuments of Romanian mining from statements made by contemporary witnesses and the little evidence that can still be found on the mining premises.