Oldest Mines

Mining is the extraction of resources from the ground. In a way, just collecting something from the ground is not mining; mining includes some work, e.g., digging, to get access to something. Obviously, the resource was either material needed for tools, jewelry, daily life, or art. So the earliest mining efforts included flint, gold and gems, salt and coal, and ochre. Originally, only resources which were used unprocessed were mined, especially only metalls in native form. The use of any material required the knowledge how to process it, the different eras were named Bronze Age, Iron Age, and so forth, because the knowledge resulted in items which were created with that technology and were found by the archaeologists in their excavations.

This little list is a list of show mines you can visit where mining started before the Iron Age. It does not include the hundreds of sites which are not open to the public, or the sites which are unknown and only identified by the products which were made with the material mined there. We ended the list at the end of the Bronze Age because the Iron Age is equivalent to the Romans, and they had an abundance of mines all over Europe, and this list would become quite long. So the following mines were operated during the Stone Age, for the production of flint, pigments for painting, or salt for living. Later copper and tin were mined.

Name Location Type Year Explanation
MineNgwenya Mine Eswatini MineIron Mine 43000 BP the ancient mine is an archaeological site, named Lion Cavern, a small cavern located on the western side of the northern open cast
MineFeuersteinbergwerk von Abensberg-Arnhofen Germany MineStone Age Flint Mine 7300 BP in the course of 700 years 300 tonnes of high-quality flint material were mined
MineSalzbergwerk Hallstatt Austria MineSalt Mine 7000 BP an object made of deer antlers was found 1838 in the so-called Kaiser-Josef-Stollen, which was presumably used to mine salt, it was recently dated to be 7000 years old
MineLes minières de silex néolithique de Spiennes Belgium MineStone Age Flint Mine 6350 BP According to the UNESCO WHL this is the oldest mine in Europe.
MineDe prehistorische vuursteenmijnen van Rijckholt - St. Geertruid The Netherlands MineStone Age Flint Mine 6200-4650 BP Neolithic flint mine assigned to the Michelsberg culture and the Stein group.
MineMines Prehistòriques de Gavà Spain MineStone Age Flint Mine 6000 BP According to their publications this is the oldest mine in Europe.
MinePrahistoryczne Kopalnie Krzemienia w Krzemionkach Poland MineStone Age Flint Mine 5400 BP from around 5400 to 3600 BP, more than 4,000 shafts were driven into the earth near Krzemionki.
MineÇankırı Tuz Mağarası Turkey MineSalt Mine 5000 BP Salt first mined by the Hittites, and the mines were almost continually operated, at least at a low level.
MineGrimes Graves Great Britain MineStone Age Flint Mine 4600 BP flint was extracted in hundreds of pits between 4600 and 4300 BP
MineClearwell Caves Great Britain MineIron Mine 4,500 BP the oldest tools found in the mine were dated 4,500 BP, it is estimated that mining for ochre began around 5000 BP
MineSchaubergwerk Sunnpau Austria MineCopper Mine 4000 BP fire setting created one of the largest mines of that time
MineGreat Orme Mines Great Britain MineCopper Mine 4000 to 2600 BP the largest Bronze Age copper mine in the world, produced about 1,700 t of copper
MineSchaubergwerk Arthurstollen Austria MineCopper Mine 3700 BP early copper mining during the Bronze Age
MineEcton Mine Educational Centre Great Britain MineCopper Mine 3600 BP mining started with copper mining during the Bronze Age, during the Middle Ages lead was mined for some time, but later the copper was more profitable and during the heydays of the mine in the 18th century mostly copper was mined.