Mining of the material slate
Almost all Schmallenberg houses have slate cladding on their walls and roofs; indeed, the town itself is built on slate rock: Today, slate is still mined in the town area by Magog GmbH, one of three Sauerland slate mines still in existence. The material slate is of high quality: it is weather-resistant, very durable, requires little maintenance and is ecologically valuable due to environmentally conscious extraction and good degradability.Slate has been mined in the area surrounding Schmallenberg since the 16th century. Slate mining developed into a regionally important industry from 1850 onward, favored by the new Prussian mining law (slate became an owner mineral), railroad construction (improvement of transportation) and the economic upswing in the course of industrialization (brisk construction activity and easier access to capital). Near Fredeburg, a slate deposit worth building was accidentally discovered in 1851 during the construction of a cooling cellar for a brewery; in 1853, the slate mine "Bierkeller" was opened here, in 1859 the neighboring mine "Magog", in 1880 "Gomer" was created and further mines were developed in the near vicinity. Most of the mines in this area were deep mines. The slate boom cooled off considerably around 1900: between 1872 and 1912, production fell by more than half: the reasons were high customs duties, which prevented exports, and rising production costs (higher wages, freight tariffs). Slate mining was revived for a short time during the reconstruction phase after the Second World War. After that, however, competitive pressure from cheaper foreign slate grew steadily. From 1970 to 1982, the "Bierkeller", "Magog" and "Gomer" pits were united, and a mine workings of 1000 meters strike extension was created. In 1996, the "Bierkeller" mine was closed down. Through rationalization and mechanization, Magog GmbH in Bad Fredeburg succeeded in absorbing some of the high production costs and remained in the black. The replacement of drilling and blasting technology with sawing technology also improved the working conditions of the workforce and reduced the amount of overburden waste. New sales areas (bathroom and kitchen tiles) and the development of new products (including slate veneer) opened up additional markets.
Use of slate in Schmallenberg
In Schmallenberg today, about ten roofing and carpentry businesses still work regularly with slate. About 30 percent of all roof coverings are slate coverings. The laying of a slate roof is technically demanding: The knowledge is imparted in roofing schools such as in Eslohe; but also very important is the traditional knowledge that has developed in family businesses such as the Schmallenberg company Pein, which is over 100 years old, also due to the spatial proximity to the traditional mining areas in the Schmallenberg and Fredeburg area. Many of the Schmallenberg companies are therefore also active nationwide. The company Fischer & Fischer developed a market niche: Since 1980, they have been producing loudspeaker boxes from slate. By chance, the entrepreneurs replaced the traditionally used building material wood with slate and made excellent experiences with it. This is because slate is characterized by low resonance, its mass and its aesthetics: Its layers, folded over each other like puff pastry, produce a high level of insulation; in addition, slate can be processed thinner and thus more aesthetically than wood.