Mining tourism

This is a travel topic that deals with all man-made structures under and above ground whose primary purpose is or was the extraction of natural resources as well as their remains, associated culture and small scale resource gathering such as gold panning from rivers and creeks.


Inside Falun copper mine

Humans have dug more or less elaborate holes in the ground in order to extract resources since time immemorial. The oldest things archaeologists currently interpret as mines were found in modern day Egypt and were used to extract flint-stone some 30 000 years before the present day. Since than both the need for resources and the technology with which to extract them have experienced tremendous development. Modern day open pit mines have transformed whole landscapes and once they are done removing all the desirable resources, they often leave man made lakes and ponds that can become a source of economic activity and tourism in themselves. While some active mines can be visited, most mines are closed to the general public with only a small visitor center if anything. However, some former mines have been converted into tourist attractions and you can learn a lot about the history of the region or of mining in general by taking a guided tour.

Some towns own their very existence or at least their current size to mining, be it Kiruna and Falun in Sweden, Norilsk in Russia or continued human presence on Svalbard. On the other hand many former mining communities are deserted once resources run out and bustling cities can become ghost towns overnight. In some cases a mine itself is the reason for the abandonment of settlements, either to make room for open pit mining or due too environmental damage through mining.

Mining has also added its own rich character to the cultural heritage of many regions, from the vocal imagery of the powerful folk ballad to the literary works recording old miners myths.

Mining and the associated culture - especially in the context of coal and steel - have also influenced things as seemingly unrelated or trivial as the (nick)names of sports teams. Many areas - especially in high income countries - that used to depend on mining have since entered a decline and despite efforts to diversify the economy, many of those areas have become "rust belts". That said, people are often immensely proud on the mining heritage of their region and some even continue to live those traditions after having moved elsewhere for a job.

Open pit versus shafts and tunnels

Modern mining often involves open pits created by huge machines. Older mines dug by hand often involve deep shafts and adits (long narrow corridors) underground. For instance the silver mines at Kongsberg has the deepest point 1,000 meters below the surface (several hundred meters below sea level). The intensive 1600s mining at Falun eventually resulted in a collapse of the underground sections, leaving a 100 meter deep and 1 km wide crater. A major problem in (almost) all mining operations is water. In open pit mines groundwater has to be lowered, sometimes hundreds of meters, leading to ground movements that are still not entirely understood and that have in the past damaged houses and other structures several kilometers away from the mine. Once the mining is concluded the rising groundwater also results in ground movements, which may further endanger property. In underground mines, water has to be pumped out and of course this water has to go somewhere. In some cases it is simply pumped into abandoned shafts, but elsewhere ponds have been created just from surplus mine water.



Every state of Australia has a mining history, and in most states there are former mining sites that are considered vital heritage locations, as well as current active locations that have facilities for visitors and tourists to visit and view.

South Australia

Western Australia


Museum entrance, Springhill



See also Industrial Heritage Trail.



South Africa


Mining museum in Falun

United Kingdom

See also: Industrial Britain


United States


One of the more obvious things often offered to tourists is gold panning, especially in areas where it has a tradition, like those invoking the old west. While the gold is by no means gone from the rivers and creeks of this world and some people actually believe to be able to make a living by gold panning, chances are that the gold you find (if any) when searching for it in any river is not enough to pay for a first world lifestyle. However, gold panning is still practiced in low income countries as an additional or only source of income.


In many areas that have a long mining tradition a whole range of mining related terms have been coined and in some cases entered the general vocabulary. They can be confusing even to native speakers of the respective languages

Stay safe

If you are on a guided tour at a mining site, stay with the tour. Don't drift away or get diverted. Mining is a hazardous industry, and if the tour is accredited and official, they will have specific guidelines of what not to do. Take careful note, and follow the rules.


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