From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
It was the largest pre-industrial working place in Norway, with over 4,000 workers at its peak in the 1770s and supplied over 10% of the gross national product of the Danish-Norwegian union during its 335 year long history: over 450,000 man-years were expended in the production.
Silver was first discovered between the 1 July and 5 July 1623. The story says that two small children - Helga and Jacob - were out shepherding their cattle at the top of Gruveåsen hill. They had an ox with them which scraped on the side of the mountain. They could see something shining and glimmering, and they picked it up and took it home to their father. Recognizing it as silver and quite valuable, he melted it and brought it to the town of Skien in Telemark county to sell it. In Skien he was arrested, the police finding it suspicious that someone would attempt to sell silver at such a low price.
Being convinced that he was a thief, he was given the choice between telling where he had found the silver, or being sentenced to hard labour. He chose to tell the authorities he had found the silver in Southern Sandsvær, which was the old name for Kongsberg. The king of Norway and Denmark at the time, Christian IV, came to Norway the following year and founded the town of Kongsberg in 1624.
The silver mines are situated in Saggrenda, approximately 8 kilometres west of Kongsberg. Visitors to the King's Mine, the biggest mine in the Kongsberg area, board the mining train which takes them through the 2,300 metres of the Christian VII Adit. The bottom of the mine is 1,070 metres below the surface, which corresponds to 560 metres below sea level. Since its closure in 1958, the silver mines has been a preserved area. It's now open for guided tours for tourists, of whom some 40,000 every year enter the Kings Mine, which is the oldest, deepest, and richest mine in Kongsberg. On the tour, you can see the first man engine in Kongsberg in action. You can also see an impressive three-dimensional map of all the mines, a stope blown out with dynamite and the adits excavated by fire setting.
For a more physically demanding trip, tours are arranged from the Kings Mine through the Lower Mountain down to Kongsberg city, a trip of roughly five hours.
The Banquet Hall of the King's Mine is also located here, billed as "The Most Unique Function Room in the Country". Originally intended as an emergency storage space for the Norwegian National Archives, the room now known as the Banquet Hall was constructed in 1943 and held 2,000 shelf-metres of documents and books.
Now a banquet hall, this impressive room is a venue for concerts and plays as well as for banquets seating up to 200 people surrounded by solid rock and seated either side of long tables - just like in the mining days. The Banquet Hall is heated and has a modern, well equipped kitchen and toilet facilities.
The town of Kongsberg also houses the Norwegian Mining Museum, with an impressive display of silver, tools, and machinery utilised by the miners, engineers, and doctors.