Mining in modern ages
The history of mining in Ridnaun is closely linked to that of the mine on the Schneeberg. From the middle of the 15th century on, the Ridnaun Valley gained in importance as the shortest transport route for the lead ore mined on the Schneeberg to the smelters of North Tyrol. Lead from the Schneeberg was needed to process the silver-bearing grey copper ore from Schwaz. For centuries pack animals would bring the ore from the stamping mills and cobbing sites on the Schneeberg over the 2,700 metre high Schneeberg pass to the Lazzacher Valley, an offshoot of the Ridnaun Valley, where there was a large ore storage silo and an inn. There were three more storage silos and a smelter in Ridnaun, from where the silver-bearing lead ore was transported on two-wheeled carts to Sterzing, then taken on heavier four-wheeled carriages over the Brenner Pass. For the last section, from Hall in Austria to the smelters at Brixlegg, Jenbach and Rattenberg, the ore was carried on boats resembling rafts. The opening of the Brenner railway in 1867 saw the construction of impressive industrial and transport facilities in Ridnaun. These included the large zinc ore processing plant in Maiern with its accommodation for workers and its site buildings, as well as what is probably the world’s longest above-ground conveyor system, running from the deepest gallery in the Schneeberg to the station at Sterzing.At 27 km in length, the conveyor consisted of eight steep braking inclines, eight flat horse tracks and eight massive ore bins. Between 1924 and 1926 the ore processing plant was converted under an Italian tenant company and adapted to the then state of the art. The above-ground ore conveyor was replaced by a modern ropeway for transporting materials. Following the 1967 fire in the miners’ settlement of St. Martin on the Schneeberg, all personnel were moved to Ridnaun. The ore deposits on the Schneeberg were from now on accessed from the Ridnaun side via the Poschhaus Gallery in the Lazzacher Valley. The miners would travel up each day on the newly built cable-car to the gallery mouth at 2,000 metres above sea level, then take the mine railway into the mountain.