Gold in Austria

Gold in Austria © Wikicommons

Austria's gold deposits

Gold has fascinated mankind for thousands of years and has always stood for power and wealth. The value of gold is based primarily on its rarity. Finding gold is not easy and mining the precious metal is costly and laborious.

Today, gold is mined mainly in China, Australia, Russia, the USA, Canada and South Africa. Austria does not appear in any statistics on gold mining. But there are gold deposits in Austria as well. The Celts and Romans already mined gold in Austria, later gold was discovered near Rauris in the Gastein Valley and near Fusch on the Grossglockner Road, which was then also mined in the Middle Ages from about the year 1300. Today, geologists believe that there are still several hundred tons of gold in the Austrian Alps. In the Goldberg group in the Hohe Tauern mountains alone - the name is no coincidence - gold deposits of about 120 tons are said to be hidden.

Gold mining in Austria

Rauris valley // public domain

In the 14th century, the first real gold rush took place in the Hohe Tauern. The center was Rauris and the surrounding valleys, where gold was extracted from the earth in numerous "official" and illegal mines. Allegedly - before the discovery of the New World - 10% of the gold mined worldwide came from the mines of Rauris. Between 1450 and 1570, about 830 kilograms of pure gold are said to have been mined there, which helped the Archbishopric of Salzburg, into whose domain the area then fell, to achieve enormous wealth.

But not only in Rauris, also in many other alpine valleys in Carinthia, Salzburg and Tyrol you can find gold tunnels today, which were driven into the mountains especially in the Middle Ages in search of gold. Centers of gold mining were, among others, also in the Gastein Valley and the Mur Valley in Salzburg, in Hainzenberg in Tyrol or in the Pölla Valley, Gail Valley, Gitsch Valley and Lavant Valley in Carinthia, where probably already the Romans mined the valuable precious metal.

In the 19th century at the latest, however, most gold mines closed because the mining of gold was simply no longer worthwhile. After the annexation of Austria in 1938, attempts were made to reactivate gold mining in the Rauris Valley, but the plan was abandoned in 1940. In the 1980s, a US company planned to invest in gold mining in the Hohe Tauern. However, because the area is now in the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, and mining would not only have required moving enormous amounts of rock and using toxic chemicals, there was no permit for it.
The last time a British mining company pushed ahead with test drilling in Salzburg's Lungau region was in 2011, before the plan to mine gold there was abandoned in 2015 due to the size of the necessary investment of 40-50 million euros.

Gold panning in Austria

Gold panning pan // CC-BY-2.0 - Nate Cull

In addition to mining in mines - in open-pit mining or in tunnels underground - gold can also be found in rivers. When panning for gold in Austria's rivers, gold can be found almost everywhere. The gold that occurs in local rivers and streams is soap gold (or also called wash gold). It consists only of tiny gold flakes that are washed out of the rock by the water and are only a few millimeters in size.

During gold panning, this tiny gold flake must be laboriously separated from the rock and sand in several steps, until finally the tiny gold flakes can be washed out of the remaining sediment with a gold panning pan (safety trough). Because on average there are only about 0.3 grams of gold per ton of rock in Austria, no one can make a living from it today, so gold panning in Austria has become a hobby and a leisure pastime for tourists.

In earlier times, however, gold was mined in Austria in almost all larger and smaller rivers. In addition to the rivers and streams in the Alpine valleys mentioned above, gold was also panned in Salzburg, Upper Austria and Lower Austria until the beginning of the 20th century. Mainly farmers and poorer population strata mined for gold to earn a sideline. The last full-time gold panner in Austria was Hans Schabauer, who operated a shaft with a winding tower and a gold panning plant in Rauris until 1962 and was able to live at least to some extent from gold prospecting alone.

Austria gold

Even if with the rise in the price of gold was again considered to promote Austria's gold deposits, the gold seems to remain in the mountains until further notice, because the mining is currently not economically viable and ecologically unacceptable. Those who want to find gold in Austria can try their hand at panning for gold themselves and learn how to pan for gold in a gold panning course with one of the numerous providers in Austria's Alps. On the other hand, if you don't want to go to so much trouble and simply want to own a piece of gold yourself, it's best to come to Gold & Co, where the valuable precious metal can be easily purchased in the form of bars and gold coins.

If you want to know more about the history of "Gold in Austria", you should read the book of the same name by Georg Lux and Helmuth Weichselbraun, which is also available at Gold & Co.

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