The Upper Harz mining water management system, which lies south of the Rammelsberg mines and the town of Goslar, has been developed over a period of some 800 years to assist in the process of extracting ore for the production of non-ferrous metals. Its construction was first undertaken in the Middle Ages by Cistercian monks, and it was then developed on a vast scale from the end of the 16th century until the 19th century. It is made up of an extremely complex but perfectly coherent system of artificial ponds, small channels, tunnels and underground drains. It enabled the development of water power for use in mining and metallurgical processes. It is a major site for mining innovation in the western world.
Rammelsberg-Goslar is the largest and longest-lived mining and metallurgical complex in the central European metal-producing region whose role was paramount in the economy of Europe for many centuries. It is a very characteristic form of urban-industrial ensemble which has its most complete and best preserved expression in Europe at Rammelsberg-Goslar.
Rammelsberg lies 1 km south-east of Goslar, in the Harz Mountains. It has been the site of mining for metalliferous ores and metal production (silver, copper, lead, zinc and gold) since as early as the 3rd century BC. The first documentary mention of Rammelsberg is from the beginning of the 11th century. The rich deposits of silver ore there were one of the main reasons for siting an imperial residence at the foot of the Rammelsberg mountain by Emperor Henry II; he held his first Imperial Assembly there in 1009. The town of Goslar grew up around the imperial residence. The town was to play an important role in the economic operations of the Hanseatic League and achieved great prosperity, which reached a peak around 1450. The revenues from mining, metal production, and trade financed the creation of the late medieval townscape of fortifications, churches, public buildings, and richly decorated mine-owners' residences which distinguish the present-day town.
In 1552 Rammelsberg was taken from the town of Goslar by the Duchy of Brandenburg, which managed it until 1866, when the mining area was seized by the Kingdom of Prussia. Mining and metallurgical operations continued there until the last mine closed in 1988.
The remains of the mining industries include waste heaps from the 10th century and excavated remains of the installations that produced them: the St Johanniskirche (c . 970); ore-transportation tracks of the 12th century: the Rathstiefster tunnel or adit (c . 1150); mining structures of the 13th century: the Tiefer-Julius-Fortunatus tunnel (1585); the overseer's house (c . 1700); Communion Quarry (1768), the Roeder tunnel system, including two well-preserved underground water-wheels (1805): the old office building (1902); the haulage way and vertical shaft with technical equipment (1905); the Gelenbeeker tunnel (1927); the Winkler ventilation shaft (1936); the surface plant complex of 1935-42: and mineworkers' houses from 1878 to 1950.
The town of Goslar likewise preserves evidence of its growth and long identification with the mining industry, with remains from many periods. Among these are the Imperial Palace and the Palatine chapel of St Ulrich (c . 1100): the Frankenburger Church (1130); the antechurch of the former Stiftskapelle (1160), containing the 11th-century imperial throne; the market place fountain (c . 1200); the Frankenburg miners' settlement (c . 1500); many houses of mine-owners from the 14th-16th centuries; and the miners' infirmary (1537).
The town was not significantly damaged in the Second World War and so the historic centre has survived intact, with its original medieval layout and many Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings of high quality.