New Polish UNESCO Heritage Site
The underground labyrinth of historic mining excavations, chambers, walkways and tunnels at Tarnowskie Góry has made the prestigious list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The historic Silver Mine was the only Polish candidate and the only industrial site out of the 33 proposals from around the globe. The decision of the International Committee was made 9th July 2017 during the 41st UNESCO session in Kraków. The Silesian masterpiece of underground hydro engineering is the 16th Polish monument on the list of cultural heritage and was praised by the committee as an example of human genius and creativity.
In addition to the underground complex of the former lead, silver and zinc mine, the list also includes 28 other objects related to the mine. Among these are mine shafts, tunnels (including the famous Black Trout Adit), the Staszic water supply station, 19th-century post-mining landscapes and Park Miejski.
Speaking at the 41st UNESCO Session, Katarzyna Piotrowska said:
Please allow me to express my deep gratitude to the members of the World Heritage Committee for the inclusion of Tarnowskie Góry and its groundwater management system. Through this nomination and entry, we pay homage to the work and wisdom of the previous generations, thanks to whom we and future generations will flourish.
The longest route of its kind in Poland
To see fragments of this extraordinary subterranean world, visitors start by taking the ‘Angel’ shaft down 40-metres. The tourist route leads though, among others sites, a chamber in which the workplace of miners is recreated. There one finds a small lake and remnants of galena, along with original tools and wooden carts from the end of the 18th-century. Waterways are crossed by boats and there is a crystal clear water source. The use of this post-mining water is unique on a global scale.
Legend has it that the first lump of ore in Tarnowskie Góry was ploughed up in 1490, giving rise to regional ‘silver fever’. For centuries there was active mining in the area – with over 20,000 shafts and more than 150 kilometres of walkways at heights ranging from 0.6 to 4.0 metres. The whole labyrinth, including waterways and drainage tunnels stretches about 35km.
The rich history of mining in Tarnowskie Góry is recalled in a multimedia exhibition and a collection displayed next to the mine contains the machinery of industry: locomotives, steam engines, cranes and power generators.
Numbering over 700 pages, the application for the mine’s entry on the UNESCO list was prepared by the Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Ziemi Tarnogórskiej (editor’s translation: Tarnogóra Appreciation Society). Outside Poland, the Iwami Gizan Silver Mine in Japan (which was added to the UNESCO list ten years ago) was also keeping its fingers crossed for Tarnowskie Góry. They organised a photo exhibition presenting the values of the mine, which can be viewed until 28th August 2017 in the Japanese city of Ōda.
Places inscribed on the World Heritage List contribute to the common good of humanity. They represent the cultural diversity and natural richness of regions around the world. Countries party to the convention are pledged to protect the sites from destruction and preserve them unchanged for future generations.
Sources: UNESCO, Stworzyszenie Miłośników Ziemi Tarnogórskiej, Kopalnia Srebra w Tarnowskich Górach, www.tarnowskiegory.pl; originally written in Polish by AL, translated by AGA 11 Jul 2017