Characteristics and Location

The more than 800 years old smelter R&D location Muldenhütten is located approx. 3 km southeast from Freiberg directly on the eastern bank of the Freiberger Mulde River. The area belongs to Freiberg since 2012. The location is divided into the developed industrial area Muldenhütten in the south from the public road in Muldenhütten and the area at Shaft Furnace I, which mainly consists of unused heritage buildings in the northern part of Muldenhütten.

The still existing historical and heritage ironworks buildings as well as their partially preserved technical facilities, make the location one of the oldest non-ferrous metal metallurgy locations in Germany. The ensemble includes buildings from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.

The Pattinson Smelter and the Shaft Furnace Building are of the historical relevance for the recomine project. These buildings are part of the site at Shaft Furnace I of the historic smelter complex. The mineral building material (plaster, mortar), the dust and the floors of the shaft furnace building and the Pattinson Smelter are heavily contaminated with pollutants such as As, Pb, Cd, Cu and Zn, which come from the smelting of Freiberg ores (Darbinjan , 2017).



It is likely that the first smelters were already on the site around 1300. The first documented evidence of the existence of a smelter at the site is a certificate of inheritance from 1318 (Kolmschlag, 2010). Ore deliveries to the “Obere Muldener Hütte” (also called “Krumme Hütte”) and the “Untere Muldener Hütte” (also called “Neue Hütte” or “Stückofenhütte”) were documented since 1524.

Especially since the first half of the 19th century, Muldenhütten developed into an industrial center in the Freiberg region, from which significant technological developments for the entire metallurgical industry emerged (Albrecht, 1999). At the end of the World War II in 1945, iron and steel production came to a standstill, as did Freiberg mining. Important systems and equipment were dismantled as part of the reparations payments to the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the production of lead and precious metals was able to start again at the end of 1945.

In 1961, all the smelters and pits in the Freiberg area were combined to form the VEB Bergbau- und Hüttenkombinat "Albert Funk" in Freiberg. The first important decision was to concentrate lead production in Muldenhütten in the future. For economic reasons, the mining in Freiberg and the surrounding area had to be closed in 1969. This meant the conversion of lead smelting in Muldenhütten exclusively to secondary raw materials, predominantly accumulators scrap metal.

The political change in 1990 meant the end of the iron and steel combine. In the course of the transformation of the Muldenhütten smelter site, individual production areas were spun off. As a result of the conversion process, a mix of companies from the recycling and metal industries as well as other innovative industrial and commercial companies emerged (Hein, 2010).

As a result of renovation and restructuring measures, a considerable part of the historical building fabric that was once there was lost. The area at Shaft Furnace I in the northern part of the Muldenhütten site, with the historic buildings Shaft Furnace Building and Pattinson Smelter, is an exception.

Area at the Shaft Furnace I

The area at Shaft Furnace I is the oldest sustained part of the historic smelting facilities in Muldenhütten. The foundation walls of some buildings go back to the 16th century. The total area is around 2.5 ha (Mollée, 2013).

Shaft Furnace Building

The Shaft Furnace Building (further named as Shaft Furnace I) was built in 1886-87 in the northeastern area of the Hüttenhof. To the east of the building is the Gout forecourt (Gichtvorplatz), and to the south, towards the Hüttenhof, is the slag area with a granulating basin. In 1939, during a renovation, the Shaft Furnace, which is still in existence today, was installed, and the Shaft Furnace Building was extended. The building consists of three floors with the tapping facility on the ground floor, the flue gas canal in the middle and the furnace stage on the upper floor. The original shaft furnace is still there and was in operation until 1991. It is a Pilzschen Shaft Furnace (Darbinjan, 2017). The Shaft Furnace Building is a heritage building and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2019.

Pattinson Smelter and Zinc Desilvering

The Pattinson Smelter consists of a part of the building in which the Pattinson method was used (the northeast wing) and a part of the building which was used for zinc desilvering (the northwest wing).

The Pattinson Smelter was built around 1855-56 in the course of the introduction of the Pattinson process. It was initially used to manufacture pure lead from lead containing precious metals using the Pattinson process. In 1885, the Parkes method of zinc desilvering was introduced in the northwest wing of the building. In 1886, structural changes were made to the Pattinson Smelter, which led to the size that is preserved to this day. The labor-intensive Pattinson process was discontinued in 1921 and a mechanical overhead conveyor was built at the same time (Kolditz, 2009). In 1943, a hard lead facility was built. After 1945, the basin and the pumps of the cooling water circuit of the Shaft Furnace I were moved to the northeast wing of the Pattinson Smelter. Zinc desilvering was discontinued in 1969, and hard lead production in 1972 (Kolmschlag, 2010). The Pattinson Smelter and the Shaft Furnace Building are heritage buildings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2019.


Projects and activities in Muldenhütten

Projects and activities in Muldenhütten

Over the years, various re-use concepts have been developed for the Muldenhütten R&D location and specifically for the Shaft Furnace Building and Pattinson Smelter, most of which have been discarded. The following projects are:

  • Project seminar of Viennese students: Development of ideas for an environmental and cultural center as well as a swimming pool in connection with the industrial ensemble Muldenhütten
  • Usage concept, which envisages museum and gastronomic uses in the Pattinson Smelter and zinc desilvering
  • Concept for an environmental and cultural center
  • Concept of a swimming pool in connection with an industrial ensemble
  • Concept for a gastronomic use

Social and cultural potential

Social and cultural potential

The potential of the R&D location Muldenhütten lies above all in cooperation between historic preservation, science, SMEs and municipalities, methods for the value and sustainable handling of contaminated monument locations can be developed and tested in a pilot project.

Due to the large number of comparable locations available worldwide, Muldenhütten can set standards and serve as a benchmark. Potential re-use concepts have to be developed with respect to the world heritage status of the buildings.

References (in German)

References (in German)

Albrecht, H. (1999): Konzeption zur umfassenden Nachnutzung des historischen Hüttenstandortes Muldenhütten bei Freiberg/Sa., Studie im Auftrag der Stiftung Innovation und Arbeit Sachsen.

Darbinjan, F. (2017): Bericht Hüttenkomplex Muldenhütten, Schachtofen I, Schadstoffuntersuchung., Verfasser: Gea SAXONIA.

Hein, D. (2010): Freibergs Hüttenwerke Bilder aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart., Hrsg.: SAXONIA Standortentwicklungs- und -verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH, Freiberg.

Kolditz, C. (2009): Der historische Hüttenstandort Muldenhütten, Erläuterungsbericht zur denkmalpflegerischen Analytik sowie zu konzeptionellen und entwerferischen Ansätzen.

Kolmschlag, F.-P. (2010): Sieben Jahrhunderte Hüttenstandort Muldenhütten., Hrsg.: Muldenhütten Recycling und Umwelttechnik GmbH.

Kowar, R. (2017): Muldenhütten Ein Rückblick in historischen Postkarten., Hrsg.: Muldenhütten Recycling und Umwelttechnik GmbH, Freiberg.

Mollée, R. (2013): Altlastenprojekt SAXONIA 1993 - 2013 eine Retroperspektive., SAXONIA Standortentwicklungs- und -verwaltungsgesellschaft mbH (Hrsg./Verlag), 1. Auflage, Freiberg.


SAXONIA Site Development and Management Company mbH

Sabine Meißner

+49 3731 39-5026


Objects of investigation

  • Social and cultural valorization
  • Sustainable use of the Pattinson Smelter and the shaft furnace building
  • Development and testing of a decontamination of the heritage location
  • Testing of the cooperation between heritage preservation, science, SMEs and municipalities



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