The oldest mining works carried out in the vicinity of Złoty Stok were already carried out around 2000 BC. From that time until today, more than 300 km of adits, shafts and pavements spread on 21 levels have been excavated.
The first record of mining works conducted here comes from 1273.
It is a privilege for mining explorations given to the Cistercian monastery in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki by the Duke of Wrocław and Kraków Henryk IV Probus. The mines of Złoty Stok were passed from hand to hand for many years, yet mining works lasted continuously, and their effectives made them the most efficient mines in 15th-century Silesia.
At that time, the share of the local trade union was bought the famous Kraków sculptor Wit Stwosz. The money received for the execution of the altar in St. Mary's Church in Kraków, were to be doubled or even tripled according to the Fugger family (major shareholders). Unfortunately, the depletion of gold-bearing deposits led the artist to bankruptcy. In desperation, Wit Stwosz decided to falsify the bill, for which he was jailed in Wrocław, and sentenced in Nuremberg. For the fraudulent bill, artist kept in the dungeon, and publicly stigmatised on both cheeks and temples.
The first half of the fifteenth century was not happy for Złoty Stok. Hussite wars (1419-1434) swept through the city, bringing numerous fires and destruction. Only the relative stabilisation of the second half of the fifteenth century brought the possibility of reconstruction and development of the village. In 1484, the Mining Office was established here, and in 1491 the city was given a coat of arms, a banner and the right to freedom of mining.
The greatest bloom of gold mining in Złoty Stok took place at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
In 1507, the prince mint was moved here from Ząbkowice Śląskie and gold ducats were minted. This resulted in an increase in the rank of the city and measurable financial benefits. In the second decade of the sixteenth century, European mining and metallurgical companies began to invest here. At this time, Złoty Stok provided about 8% of the total European production of gold from nearly 200 mines.
However, the intensive development of mining was not followed by equally intense technological progress, and the wasteful exploitation and maximum focus on profits has led to many tragic mining accidents. One of the biggest was the collapse of the main shaft in the “Golden Donkey Adit” 72 m deep, where 59 miners were. The rock slide has never been removed and the remains of the victims have never been found. The tragedy of the “Golden Donkey Adit” was the beginning of bad luck that led to the withdrawal of the company Fugger family from further investment in Złoty Stok.
It should be mentioned here that gold from Złoty Stok has a significant part in the history of the world. The Fuggers supported Spanish Queen Isabella with their gold, who could thus finance the expedition of Christopher Columbus, resulting in the discovery of America.
The mines became famous with the world's first rock shooting with black gunpowder (1612). Bad luck, however, lasted for years. Numerous mining disasters, fires and pestilence, the largest of which consumed 1100 victims, ruined the city significantly. After the ravages of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) the city was already setting in decline.
The breakthrough took place with a chemist and alchemist Hans settling in Złoty Stok. After many experiments, he managed to develop a process for recovering arsenic from arsenic ore. For over 100 years, Złoty Stok became a major global supplier of arsenic. However, the short-sighted policy led Schärffenber’s descendants to running out of ore and the collapse of the mine and smelter.
Mining of gold was reactivated only after the Austrian-Prussian wars. In 1848 a cheaper method of production of gold was developed, involving the chlorination of the calcined ore and leaching pure metal from chloride compounds. This method was applied in Złoty Stok by Wilhelm Güttler, who, bought all the mining areas after processing the entire raw material in 1883. The ownership was maintained his heirs until 1945. Thanks to their efforts, in 1900 a railway line connecting with Złoty Stok with Kamieniec Ząbkowicki was built, which undoubtedly contributed to the significant industrial development of the city. His heirs kept the property until 1945, and during their times many technical innovations were introduced, including electrical railway, transporting excavated material, made available today to explore in the Gertruda Adit.
World War II did not bring damage to the mine, and after it ended, the Germans handed it to the Polish authorities in an intact state. The works in the mine were commenced by the miners, brought here from Upper Silesia. A German worker, who trained new users in the correct use of equipment, worked for some time in the laboratory. In 1948, the search for new deposits was initiated.
In 1962, due to the so far unexplained "top-down decree", the mining and smelting operations were terminated in Złoty Stok.
This decision raises serious doubts as mine brought an annual output of 20 to 30 kg of gold, falling suddenly only in 1961 to 7 kg for unknown reasons. Due to the natural circulation of water, which was no longer pumped out, the mine was completely submerged in a short time.
Over the entire period of mining, i.e. during more than 700 years, approx. 16 tons of pure gold were excavated in Złoty Stok
The period of leaving the mine lasted 35 years. In the end, it was decided that some of the corridors should be cleared and made available for tourists. The main initiator and executor of the project was the then mayor of Złoty Stok, mgr Wiktor Lubieniecki.
After 5 years of work, on 8 May 1996 an Underground Tourist Route "Gold Mine" was launched. So far, extremely interesting adits such as “Gertruda Adit”, “Upper Black Adit“ with the only underground waterfall in Poland (8 m high) and the latest section of “Lower Black Adit” open to the public since 2008, have been made available for visiting.
The Gold Mine in Złoty Stok is still waiting to be discovered. The explorers may find many remnants of past centuries, from the remains of the once working miners, who were never pulled out after the mining disaster, to the secrets of the Third Reich carefully hidden from curious eyes by rock slides ...