Learn more about the Minemuseum!


In 1857, a Belgian company called Vieille Montagne came here and bought the land and the mining rights. The company also bought land in Åmmeberg, which is located ten kilometres north of Zinkgruvan. 

Large-scale underground ore mining was started in Zinkgruvan. Tunnels and shafts were built. 

In Åmmeberg, the company built its headquarters and ore processing plant. A port of shipment and workshops were also built there. The mined ore was transported on the company’s newly built railway from Zinkgruvan to Åmmeberg, where it was processed. The ore was then shipped out on the company’s own steamboats. The boats went out into Lake Vättern, down Göta Canal, and on to Gothenburg. There the ore was trans-shipped for further transport to smelters abroad. There are no smelters in Sweden for the metals mined at Zinkgruvan: zinc, lead, and silver. In recent years, copper is also being mined here; however, the copper ore stays in Sweden.

In 1976 , a new processing plant was built, adjacent to the large mine in Zinkgruvan. In connection with that, all operations in Åmmeberg ceased and moved up here. And with that, all railway transport of ore to Åmmeberg ceased as well, and the railway track was removed. Today, all processed ore is transported on lorries to Lake Vänern, where it is loaded onto larger boats that transport the ore to smelters around the world.

Vieille Montagne owned the mine up until 1995. The mine was then sold to the Australian company North, which, in turn, sold it to a British company, Rio Tinto, in 2000. Rio Tinto turned out to be the world’s largest mining company. In 2004, Zinkgruvan was acquired by Lundin Mining for about eight hundred million Swedish kronor. At the time, ore prices were very low. When Lundin had owned the mine for about 18 months, developments in China began to take off, and metal prices skyrocketed. In about a year and a half, the mine had been paid for. Adolf Lundin got himself a good deal. Adolf Lundin passed away in 2006, at which point his son, Lukas Lundin, had already taken his father’s place as Chairman of the company. Today, a grandson of Adolf Lundin is President of Lundin Mining Group as well as a major shareholder in the company, which is listed on the stock exchange. In 2022, 1.4 million tonnes of ore was mined at Zinkgruvan, which is now Sweden’s southernmost active underground mine. 

The Guide Rickard talks about the Library and the sports association

Early on, Vieille Montagne created a library for its employees. Some of the books in here are so old that they are written in Old Swedish. There was one condition for borrowing the books: if anyone in the family got a serious illness, the book had to be returned immediately. People believed that the illness could be contracted through the books.

On the right are photos from the sports association. Football was once a big sport in Zinkgruvan, but today, there is no longer a local football team. However, the sports association does have an active and successful ski section with many members. People come from afar to ski in the lovely tracks, and the sports association makes artificial snow for skiing. 

The Photo RoomHouse in Zinkgruvan

In 1857, Zinkgruvan was not yet a community. Only forests, lakes, and a massive ore deposit could be found here. The company owned the land and leased it to the miners, who were able to borrow money from the company to build their homes. After 25 years, the loans were written off. The company wanted its miners to live locally and to bring their families along. The map shows where the different houses were/are located.

The work environment in the mine in the old days

The photographs inside on the left show miners in the Zinkgruvan mine. One photo shows a man loading by hand even though he has his loading machine. Back then, no one had starting using a helmet; instead, he wore a regular hat. The loaders were not able to go very far into the blasting area, so he had to rake out the ore by hand. Then he could pick up the ore using the bucket of the loader. 

He had a carbide lamp with an open flame to light his way. If the carbide lamp went out, he may not always know where he had placed it. There is no light whatsoever underground. And you don’t get used to the dark; if it’s black, it’s black. To relight the carbide lamp – once located – the miner would need to have dry matches with him. 

Anniversary Display Case

Here is a photo showing how the ore was transported from Zinkgruvan to Gothenburg. First it went by railway down to Åmmeberg for processing. Then it was loaded onto boats owned by the company that travelled down to Gothenburg. Today, the railway is gone, and the ore is transported by lorry from the processing plant in Zinkgruvan to the Otterbäcken Port on Lake Vänern.

The mining museum also has a few locomotives that ran between Zinkgruvan and Åmmeberg. At first, they were steam locomotives, and later on diesel locomotives. Way back when, at the start of the 20th century, there was a horse-drawn draisine that ran between Zinkgruvan and Åmmeberg. It also serviced the public, and today the draisine is on display in the mining museum garage. 

In 1957, the Swedish part of the mining company celebrated 100 years, and all employees were invited to the party. It was a gigantic anniversary celebration, and several prominent guests from Belgium, including the Belgian ambassador, attended it. The employees of the mine received medals which were handed out at the sports arena. After that, they walked down to Rosthyttan where they had dinner and celebrated until the early morning hours.

The Lab

Up until 1976, the company’s lab was located in Åmmeberg, at which point it was moved to Zinkgruvan. As the lab was computerised, the equipment became obsolete, and the objects in the room were almost discarded. Thanks to an employee, however, the equipment was saved for posterity and can now be viewed here at the museum.

The Tool Room, Rickard talks:

The oldest type of lamp used by the miners at Zinkgruvan is called a rapeseed oil lamp. It was fuelled by oil, as there was no kerosene at the time. Once kerosene was introduced, the lamps were simply converted to kerosene lamps – after all, the design was the same. In the early 20th century, carbide arrived. It provided better light, but it still burned with an open flame that easily went out. The lamp was hung up in the workplace. Sometime in the 1950s, the headlamp came along, with a rechargeable battery. The battery was large and heavy and was carried on the back in a harness. The lamp was attached to the helmet so that you had both hands free to work. You didn’t have to hang the lamp up but could carry it with you at all times. Today’s miners charge their lamps above ground, and the small battery fits inside the lamp on the helmet. 

In the early days of Zinkgruvan, drilling was done by hand using a hand drill. It was a small drill made of carbon steel that miners would hit with a sledgehammer, drilling it into the rock. A talented driller could drill a total of maybe 2 to 2.5 metres during a shift. Then, in the late 1870s, drilling machines arrived. These were flimsy, hand-held machines, but at least the miners no longer had to strike the drill by hand. The drill was made of carbon steel, and a driller had to bring maybe 50 drill bits down into the mine for the day’s work. The driller had to bring the 50 drill bits back up again after each shift and take them to a drill smith, who sharpened and hardened them and gave them back to the driller the next day. In 1947, Sandvik invented a hard metal they call coromant, which sits at the end of the drill bit. It was so good that instead of fifty drill bits, five were now enough. Coromant is still the metal used in drill bits today. 

Here in the Tool Room, we also display saws and axes. You might wonder why these would be used in a mine. Well, all construction, reinforcement, and building of manways were handled by carpenters. You also see helmets, boots, and other tools that were used in the mine. On the wall are signalling diagrams for the lifts.

At the far left of the room are overseer uniforms. Overseers were a kind of engineer in the mine. They wore a uniform coat, white (!), pants, and a black hat.

On the left side of the room, there are also a few utility articles from homes in Zinkgruvan. They show what the miners did in their spare time. Among other things, they mended their shoes.

The guide Rickard talks about the Mineral Room

The Mineral Room holds several mineral collections donated to the museum by various individuals. 

When exploring whether there is ore in the bedrock, test drilling takes place. Then you place the core samples in wooden boxes for future analysis. 

The display case between the windows holds rocks from Nygruvan Mine and Knalla Mine.

The next collection was donated by a miner from Knalla Mine, who collected rocks throughout his life. Here you can see part of his collection. 

Richard talks about the Model 

One of the best things here in the museum, according to us guides, is the Model. It’s a three-dimensional model of the mine. This is a unique model in that it has been updated every year. Until 2021, two individuals added to the model each year. The company provides the museum with maps of the past year’s production. They brown sections of the model show areas where ore has been mined and which have then been refilled with waste rock. The yellow is existing galleries and shafts. There are just over 400 kilometres of road in the mine. And there are probably just as many on the old levels. While you can’t drive a car there, it is still possible to walk.

The green area is where copper ore has been mined. The mine is currently 1,300 metres deep. The deeper down into the rock, the more expensive it is to extract the ore, but there is ore down to a depth of at least 1,600 metres. There are three lift shafts in the mine, one here by the museum and two on the industrial grounds. There is also a ramp, so that you can drive a car down into the mine. It goes down to the 650-metre level, where it connects with the road network of the mine. 

The Crushing House or Train House

The Crushing House was probably built in 1870, in Belgian style with red brick and grey timber. In Sweden, this style of building can only be found in Åmmeberg and Zinkgruvan. It originates from southern Belgium and is called timber framing. The company hired an architect from Angleur who designed these buildings. He was employed from November 1859 to April 1860 – not a long time to design as many buildings as he did! The mason also came from Belgium.


Initially, the miners had to load everything by hand using something called a pitching poll-pick and a kind of a pan. After raking the ore into the pan, they carried it and emptied it into the trolley. The trolley was then pulled by arm power to the loading machine. This pile that we see in front of us, it’s about 14 tonnes, which is what the miner would have to unload during his shift in order to earn his daily wages. The rock pile was not to be watered, as wet rock was considered to weigh much more, which resulted in a wage deduction.

The headframe

The shaft at Knalla Mine was excavated in 1863, the same year Alfred Nobel was here testing nitroglycerine as an explosive. It is now 350 metres deep and is still used as an escape route through which you can evacuate people in case of an underground crisis.


The green locomotive here is the first diesel locomotive at Zinkgruvan. It arrived in 1937 and had nine horsepower. The next locomotive model was introduced in 1961 and was, of course, a bit more modern and had 15 horsepower. From 1910 until the diesel locomotives came, accumulator locomotives were used underground. 

The guide Berra talks about the Machine Shed

Inside the Machine Shed, we have old drilling machines that were used underground. At the far end is a drill press. Back in the day, the drill was held by hand against the rock, and the driller would strike it with a sledgehammer. With each strike, the drill would rotate a quarter of a turn. When the machine arrived, the drill was pressed into the rock using compressed air, and all the miner had to do was turn the drill. However, back then, there was no water to cool and water against dust. A room like this would be filled up with dust from the drill in no time. The miners would breathe the dust in and often contract the lung disease silicosis, or stone dust lung. 

In the 1960s, miners used ladders to get to their open stopes on the 450-metre level. Once mining had reached 500 metres, they switched to the ramp system, which meant building sloping paths and roads underground. Back then, there were no cars to transport the miners; instead, they got electric mopeds. These were good for driving on flat ground, but when climbing up the ramp, the batteries ran out quickly. They did a prototype of a motorcycle, and here at the museum, we have the first motorcycle used underground. There would be no others. It’s made at the Husaberg motorcycle factory and is the first-ever Husaberg motorcycle! It was tested in the mine by a mine foreman named Harry Åkerström. Because it was powered by diesel, it shook terribly, and the whole thing was far from successful. In the mine, the motorcycle was known as the “Harry Davidson”, after Harry Åkerström.

Rail-bound loader

This is a type of rail-bound loader that was used underground. You attach a dumper behind it, into which you throw the rock. At the end of the 1960s, all underground traffic was on rails, but then a loader called Cavo arrived, and that’s what we see here. It’s a four-wheel drive and is powered by compressed air. The compressed air entered via a system of pipes from above that had a rubber hose at the end. Being equipped with wheels and thus not requiring rails, this Cavo revolutionised mining at Zinkgruvan. Since Zinkgruvan is a backfill mine, you put back as much as you take out. Before, you would have to place out the rails and build a shaft through which you dumped waste rock to refill the cavity. But with the Cavo, that was no longer necessary. Now the rock could be loaded without a problem. All you had to do was connect more and more hose, allowing you to drive almost as far as you wanted.

Hoist room and hoist

The hoist we see here was made at ASEA in 1917 for the Karl Johan shaft in Grängesberg. It was later moved to Yxsjöberg, and from there it came to Zinkgruvan in 1965. It was commissioned in 1971 and is still being used.

Outside, drilling machine no. 1

This is the first piece of mechanical drilling equipment that came to the mine. We call it a knee gauge. It is an air-powered, hand-held drill. As you can imagine, it caused both hearing and vibration problems. This one is constructed with a compressed air motor that hammers and turns the drill. It has an air cylinder that can be set via a gauge to different pressures depending on the hardness of the rock. A machine like this drills about 25 to 30 centimetres per minute. Today, drilling rigs are computerised, and a screen shows where the driller should make the holes. The miner sits in an air-conditioned, noise-proof cabin. Fully automated drilling, where the driller sits somewhere else in the company, is also a reality these days. Today, between 1.5 and 2.5 metres per minute are drilled, which is quite a difference from how it was in the past.

Exhibition hall, Rickard talks

On the left is a fire engine that was used as an industrial fire engine in Åmmeberg. It’s a Volvo from 1936, in completely untouched original condition and registered as a vintage car. The mining museum staff takes it out for a drive at least once a year. As a fire engine, it hasn’t been used much. In fact, it has only been called out once – when a hedge had caught fire. 

Behind the fire truck is a horse-drawn draisine, which ran between Zinkgruvan and Åmmeberg, carrying people as well as mail. The coachman, Nyqvist, was quite fond of his spirits and was rarely sober, but that didn’t really matter, as the carriage ran on rails and the horse knew exactly where to go and where to stop. 

Behind the draisine is a rescue wagon, which is equipment used by the fire brigade in case of a crushing accident or if someone is stuck somewhere.

Then we have an ambulance, which is a converted Volkswagen. It was built in the early 1980s and was used in the mine until the 21st century. According to those who had to use it, it was very uncomfortable to ride in. The ambulance has actually been involved in a pleasant call-out as well. Someone wanted to bring it to an exhibition for converted Volkswagens. The Volkswagen friends thought they had seen it all, but they had never seen an ambulance converted from an old Volkswagen. Out of the 400 vehicles exhibited, 12 were named “outstanding car”, including this one. The trophy standing on the engine bonnet is the reward that was received. 

The final vehicle here in the exhibition hall is the first locomotive used underground. It’s an electric locomotive with a rechargeable battery that was charged above ground and could run for one shift in the mine. It was a very good locomotive, and it comes with a story: Long before the mining museum came into being, the locomotive was donated by the mining company to Ludvika Heritage Centre. Many years later, someone from Ludvika visited and saw a photo of the locomotive being used at Zinkgruvan, and said, “We have that one at home.” This resulted in a successful exchange, as Zinkgruvan recovered its first locomotive and the museum in Ludvika was expanded with a compressor!