The Copper Shale

Copper shale is a calcareous mudstone, which includes a variety of metals in finely divided forms, including copper, silver, zinc, and lead. The name derives from the proportion of sulfur-containing copper ore in the rock.

Beyond the importance of its composition, copper shale is also of paleontological interest. Fossil footprints are often found in the rock, for example fossilized plants and fish are not uncommon.

Coelacanth in copper ore. Source:


The copper shale mining in Germany dates back to the year 1199. According to legend, the miners Napian and Neuke found on the "Copper Mountain" near Hettstedt, east of the Harz mountains, a new deposit and start with mining.

80 million years ago had tectonic movements led to the lifting of the Harz mountains so that copper shale layers were pressed to the surface. In the following period originated in places like Hettstedt, Mansfeld and Eisleben hundreds of small and large heaps, which now dominate the entire landscape.

Even at the turn of 19 to 20th Century the mining areas between the Harz and the Thuringian Forest and parts of Lower Hesse were responsible for 80 percent of Germany's total copper production. Accordingly, the history of copper mining is a particularly good study in the dumps to Hettstedt, Mansfeld, Eisleben and Sangerhausen.

An outline of the history of the copper shale mining in Germany, see here.