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Since the Bronze Age, the mining and extraction of naturally occurring ores are of great importance for mankind. In Switzerland however, the mining of ores nowadays can no longer be operated economically.

Chalcopyrite, galena, sphalerite
Chalcopyrite, galena, sphalerite. Chalcopyrite is one of the most important copper ores due to its extensive distribution.


Historical development of ore mining in Switzerland

Ores are mineral resources from which metals can be extracted. Already in the Bronze Age, mining was carried out by smelting. Slag finds and bronze objects bear witness to this earliest form of ore mining. Mining sites from the 14th and 15th century are known in Graubünden and Wallis. The 16th and 17th century represented in many places, a high point in the development of mining, just as the first half of the 19th century. Mining was again sharply reduced during both of the two world wars. The last two iron ore mines were closed in the 1960s.

Ore deposits today of no economic importance

Despite the fact that well over 1000 ore deposits are present in Switzerland, today this group of natural resources no longer has economic importance. In the production statistics, Switzerland has almost no mention, but has a high per capita consumption in the consumer statistics. Recycling therefore plays a central role in Switzerland: In the future, secondary raw materials from everyday objects (e.g., rare earth metals in cellphones) will be as important as the primary raw materials stored in the ground.

Scientific importance

The minor economic importance is contrasted by a strong interest in ores in science. There are many national, cantonal and communal institutions, archives, libraries, museums, societies and associations which devote themselves to various forms of scientific, historical and documentary aspects of this resource group.

Map showing the “significant ore occurrences of Switzerland”
Map showing the “significant ore occurrences of Switzerland”. These include occurrences which have been exploited over an extended period of time, show a large supply of ores, historically were of great importance or could relatively quickly be reactivated.

Who is who

The Georesources Switzerland Group is the official contact with regard to mineralization in Switzerland. It undertakes investigations of the usable mineral resources of our country on behalf of the federal government. In addition, university institutes, associations and societies deal with mining and ore deposits.



The Georesources Switzerland Group, under mandate from the federal government or of their own initiative, investigates the mineral deposits of the geological subsurface of Switzerland and their industrial application.



The Fluids and Mineral Resources Group teaches the geology of mineral deposits and examines geological fluid processes that result in the formation of technically useful enrichments of rare earth elements in the earth’s crust.  



The SGHB was founded in 1979. The aim of the society is to foster knowledge of the long since abandoned mines in Switzerland, the historical development of mining, but also old and new processing and smelting methods.

Mineral Resources

ETH Zurich Department of Earth Sciences
Georesources Switzerland Group
NO F35
Sonneggstrasse 5
CH-8092 Zurich
+41 44 632 37 28