Mining in the Tyrol.
An Interdisciplinary Research Project at the University of Innsbruck
The research project HiMAT (History of Mining Activities in the Tyrol and Adjacent Areas: Impact on Environment and Human Societies), which began in March 2007, ranges from pre-historic to present times and combines 14 different arts and sciences such as history and archaeology, mineralogy and dendrochronology, archaebotany and archaezoology as well as toponomastics, ethnology, and geoinformation. A major field of research is mining and production of silver and copper in the region of Schwaz during late medieval and early modern times with its peak in 1523, when it ranked among the most important mining regions of Europe.
Two aspects - out of many more - are still being discussed in a controversial way: the beginnings of mining in the Middle Ages and the population size of Schwaz in the 16th century. The few reliable sources strongly indicate that at least the production of silver did not start before the 1430s. Whether the same was true for copper production, which - though only on a modest level - might have begun much earlier, is still open to debate.
As soon as both silver and copper mining and production quickly grew in the second half of the 15th and in the early 16th centuries, directly and indirectly they provided thousands of people with employment and income. It is most likely that many of them did not live in the market village of Schwaz itself, but rather in the surrounding areas. Several sources allow the conclusion that instead of up to 20 000 people - as many scholars have assumed to the present day - only up to about 5000 may have lived in Schwaz.