Mining Area of the Great Copper Mountain in Falun
Mining Area Of The Great Copper Mountain In Falun
Cultural Sweden Europe And North America Town Of Falun, Dalarna Province

The Falun landscape is dominated by the remains of copper mining and production, which began as early as the 9th century and came to an end in the closing years of the 20th century. Falun was to become the major producer of copper in the 17th century and exercised a profound influence on mining technology and economy in all parts of the world for two centuries. The successive stages in the economic and social evolution of the copper industry in the Falun region, from a form of 'cottage industry' to full industrial production, can be seen in the industrial, urban, and domestic remains of this industry that still survive.

The Great Copper Mountain in Falun and its cultural landscape are an outstanding example of a technological ensemble with a historical industrial landscape and unique types of buildings and settlements. The Great Copper Mountain (Stora Kopparberget) is the oldest and most important mine working in Sweden and one of the world's most remarkable industrial monuments. The man-made landscape surrounding the mine is very remarkable and unique by Swedish and international standards. The World Heritage site consists of the Great Copper Mountain and several areas around it which make up Kopparbergslagen, with many furnace sites, waterways, ponds, canals, and ancient mining settlements.

The oldest surviving document relating to the Great Copper Mountain, which consisted of the underground mine, was issued in 1288, but scientific studies suggest that its origins date back to the 8th or 9th centuries. It is likely that the Swedish industry was upgraded at this time under German influence. There is considerable evidence of this in the form of the technology being applied, such as fire-setting and mine drainage, the origins of which can be traced to continental sources.

The 15th century was a time of unrest and armed conflict, protesting against trade restrictions and taxation. In 1531-34 several distinguished citizens of Falun were executed on the orders of Gustavus Vasa. During the 16th and 17th centuries the Great Copper Mountain was the mainstay of Sweden's economy, enabling it to become one of the leading European powers: Falun was producing 70% of the world's output of copper. The Great Copper Mountain was organized as a corporate operation, with free miners owning shares proportional to their interests in copper smelters. It may justifiably be considered to be the precursor of the later joint stock companies, and it is often referred to as 'the oldest company in the world.'

A cultural region known as Kopparbergslagen developed around Falun which is unique to Sweden. There were no fewer than 140 copper-smelting furnaces in the region at this time, and the free miners had their estates and manor-houses close to the furnaces. The agrarian landscape was dominated by grazing land and wooded pastures. Despite the high level of technology developed and applied in and around the Great Copper Mountain, there were inevitably accidents, and especially in the 17th century, when production was intensive. The copper furnaces were water-powered from as early as the 13th century: ponds, dykes and canals were constructed to supply the furnaces and the mines;the oldest surviving dam dates from the 14th century.

The town of Falun, with its 1646 gridiron street plan and the three districts of wooden houses, was the second largest city in Sweden at that time, with a population of some 6,000 people. As the demand for copper receded in the 18th and 19th centuries, production was extended to other mineral resources of the Great Copper Mountain, including sulphur, lead, zinc, silver and gold. In 1888 the old company was reconstituted as a modern limited company, Stora Kopparbergs Bergslags AB. The old copper furnaces were abandoned and large new factories were built, producing paper and sawn timber.

In the 19th century the Great Copper Mountain became Sweden's first tourist attraction and the company celebrated its seventh centenary in 1988. However, by 1992 all the viable ore deposits had been extracted and so mining ceased. By 1998 the only industrial activity remaining was the production of the traditional and very distinctive Falun red paint, used for the protection of the wooden buildings of Sweden and other parts of Scandinavia.