Show Mines

Show Mines or Tourist Mines, also Visitor Mines, sometimes Exhibition Mines, are mines which are open for tourists. They are mining museums inside real mines. In most cases the mine is closed and was reactivated, or it is an attempt to create jobs for some members of the former staff. In rare cases its possible to visit an operating mine, and in extremely rare cases its possible to see the mining.

Drilling machine powered by high-pressure air and water cooled.
High-pressure air powered train to transport ore from the mining face to the central tunnel.

Show mines are one of the most important categories on with about 1,000 listings, about 20 %. As there are so many we omitted a list of examples on this page. But we want to explain some important aspects of show mines.

Mines are artificial underground spaces which in many cases are at risk of collapse. A show mine has to manage this problem, by removing loose stones and by building supports. Miners have work boots, so uneven ground, water and slippery spots are not a problem. Show mines need as good a path as possible, as visitors usually come with normal shoes, even if the paths do not necessarily have to be suitable for high heels. Finally, lighting is important. Miners have their own lights and only central places have electric lighting. In exhibition mines, good lighting is relevant to safety and, moreover, suitable lighting can be didactically valuable. So the three essential aspects, safety, comfort and information, have already been mentioned.

Of course, the subject itself is interesting; besides the geology, the technology, i.e. the tools and machines, is also important. Nevertheless, many mines offer three other topics. First, there is the history of local mining and its impact on the population. Then there is the area of fairy tales and legends, mining is very often linked to mountain spirits and mystical events. And finally, entering the mine, with a mine train or a mine elevator, can also be an experience. This even forced some mines to simulate the ride in an elevator when they don't have a real one.

And a final important aspect is the diverse traditions of the miners. Because the work was so dangerous, many were very devout and Saint Barbara, the patron saint of miners, was prayed to before every entry. Then miners have their own language, similar to seamen. It's different in every language, of course, but in all cultures they had their own technical terms. So there is a miner's greeting, the Glück auf or Good Luck. Adits are tunnels used for drainage and drifts are tunnels used for mining.