Lead and Zinc mine


Early times
There are no evidences for mining on Rothenberg in early times. Only a bracelet from the Bronze Age (approx. 3000 BC) was found in the area of the Rotlaui avalanche. The first document which confirms the mining in Goppenstein is a certificate issued by the Bishop of Sion from August 1 1474. Due to disagreement between the partners, there was probably no mining on this time.

By the end of the 16th Century, the mine in Goppenstein is mentioned many times. But there is no further information about the mine owners or the works which were done. Early traces were found on the Schoenbuehl area on about 2000 meters. From which period these traces are, is unclear. Yet on the first maps from the region, you can find the name «Alti Pochi» which means «Old stamp mill» in English.

17 and 18th Century
Detailed records of a mining on Rotheberg exists since the 17th Century. In 1610, Governor Michael Mageran built the mine. Kaspar Jodok Stockalper took over the mine as a partner. In spite of difficult targets and an export ban for lead, the mine was operated by Hans Gabriel de Werra until 1647. To reduce costs, the excavated material was smelted in Goppenstein. In the next decades the mine owner changed many times. Nobody could operate the mine successfully. Most of them failed due to mismanagement, fraud, dizziness and lack of expertise.

Success and downfall in the 19th Century
In 1845, Pierre de Baglioni took over the mine. Baglioni owned yet some other mines in the region and operated them very successful. In Goppenstein he let clear up the tunnel in the height of 1800 meters and mined a considerable amount of ore. Baglioni had to fight against the same problems as yet the previous owners had, but Baglioni sold the mine 1849 with a profit of CHF 64000 to a UK company under the leadership of John James Rippon. He built huge facilities in Goppenstein and Mittal and also a road from Gampel to Goppenstein. Instead of mining, he only smelted existing material.

In 1856, Serquet, Stauffer and d'Ervieux received the mining rights. They founded the «Gesellschaft der silberhaltigen Minen im Lötschental». As already Baglioni, they worked in the tunnels in the height of 1800 meters. In this height, they created buildings for a carpenter, a blacksmith, a coal storage, a powder house and even Accommodations for 60 people. The ore passed through pipes to Goppenstein where it was washed and pounded in newly built facilities. The collected silt was transported to Steg where it was melted. In 1869 and 1870 they could not fulfil the obligations from the community and they already invested all the money into the company, they went bankrupt.

Era Tiebel
In January 1897 Richard Tiebel took over the mine. One year after the takeover, he let build an examination tunnel about 400 meters below the former tunnels. After two years, the so called Tiebel-tunnel crossed the ore-bearing sources. At the same time, the Dahl-tunnel was advanced from the other side of the Rotlaui avalanche cone. At the end, both tunnels were connected.

After the unexpected death of engineer Dahl – he drowned in the river Rhone – Tiebel founded the «Bergwerksgesellschaft Helvetia» together with some friends. Fast, they began to build a new processing plant. There were turbines and accommodations. A cable car connected the Dahl-tunnel with the processing plant. In the first year they won so much lead, that they calculated already with a profit for the next year.

The ore-veins in the tunnels at 1300-1400 meters were less productive than expected. The processing plant was shut down for month because there was not enough material available. Despite more money from the shareholders, the company ran out of funds. In 1907 the mine was closed and the mining rights went to the general contractor of the Bern-Loetschberg-Simplon line in Paris. At this time, they built the railway line, and the buildings of the mine, were very useful. In 1927 the «Berner-Alpenbahngesellschaft BLS» gave back the mining rights to the canton.

Era Schurter and Eberhard
In 1939 engineer H. Schurter gets the concession. With his partner engineer Eberhard he founded the «Erzbergwerk Goppenstein GmbH» in 1941. They planned mining in 1300-1600 meters, the same height as already Tiebel did. The former tunnels should be cleared up within very short time and plants for flotation and electrolysis should be built. Schurter saw, because of his lead mine, the Swiss wide lead consumption saved for generations. He confirmed the necessary ore deposits with pendulum attempts.

The engineers from the «Bureau für Bergbau» were not very enthusiastic when they visited the mine. Mining in this height would be difficult and the ore is too low. Schurter was no longer taken seriously. Instead of working in the tunnels, the workers drank in the canteens or slept in the field. This was enough for Eberhard and the State Council. So the mining rights were divided. Eberhard get the main mining area on the left side, and Schurter the part on the right side of the river Lonza.

While Eberhard has continued the work, no mining activities by Schurter are known. Eberhard cleared up the tunnels and created a cable car from the Tiebel-tunnel down to the road. He also modified the existing plants. Despite all the work, there was not much mining so far. Instead, Eberhard began with exploitation of talc and quartz from the Dahl-tunnel. In 1944 Joseph Dionisotti joined the company. At this time, there were only repair works and a lot of plans. Both don't have enough money for mining, so nothing was done in the next years.

Era Dionisotti
In 1946 Dionisotti let clear up the tunnels in 1800 meters against the will of Eberhard .Eberhard continued with the exploitation of talc in the valley ground. This was so profitable, that he wanted to build a talc mill, a bottling plant and a storage room in Goppenstein. But before these works could get started, Eberhard agreed to sign over the concession to Dionisotti in 1948.

After Dionisotti gets the permission, he began to build the new facilities in the valley ground and even in the height of 1800 meters. Tons of materials were transported to Goppenstein to equip the new facilities. Even a 600 meter long cable car, connecting the tunnels in 1800 meters with the processing plant in the valley ground, was built. To operate the jackhammers, pipes for the pressured air were laid.

At this time, almost exclusively Italian workers were employed. Due to the closure of the carbon mine in Ferden, many of the indigenous workers were unemployed. So the community decided that only 10 to 20 percent of the workers in the mine in Goppenstein should be foreign workers. Until 1952 about 50 workers were employed in the mine. In 1953 works were stopped. Until this time, only less ore was mined. The new processing plant was only short in operation. Until 1965 the facilities were inspected regularly. Nevertheless, thefts, burglaries and vandalism could not be prevented. In 1968 the concession went back to the canton.

The end of the Rothenberg-mine
Since Dionisotti failed at Rothenberg, the mining rights were given two more times but only for measurements. Today, the ruins of the processing plant from Dionisotti are still visible. Most of the tunnels are collapsed and closed for safety reasons.