Røros is a characteristic example of this type of technological and industrial development, as well as being an outstanding survivor of a traditional kind of human settlement built by traditional methods of construction. Also, it has vulnerable under the impact of economic change since the cessation of copper mining after 333 years of continuous activity. Lastly, Røros embodies a strong degree of rarity because of its location. It was built as an industrial community in the mountains (650 m above sea level) at a very northern latitude subject to extremely long winters and low temperatures (-50 °C).
Within the framework of Norway's inventory of cultural property, Røros ranks in importance with Bryggen and the stave church at Urnes. Røros is an extensive mining settlement dating from 1644, when the development of the copper works began. Its physical history has continued without interruption since the town was burned in 1679.
Thus the numerous surviving buildings represent the Norwegian tradition of construction that flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. The buildings reflect the dual occupations of the inhabitants - mining and farming - the domestic groups being arranged as compact farmyards. These groups are disposed on a regular urban pattern adapted to the mountain terrain, reflecting the particular kind of industrial planning introduced by the Danish kings of Norway in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Røros is in a remarkably complete state of preservation. An engraving of the town as seen from the slag heaps in the 1860s is virtually the same as a photograph of the 1970s taken from the same viewpoint.
Preservation efforts date from the early years of the 20th century. The first legal protection of buildings in Røros was effected in 1923. Legal protection now extends to 80 buildings. In 1936 land was purchased for the development of an open-air museum, and the first old building was moved to the site in 1947. However, the museum impetus was overtaken by a movement, dating from 1938, that led to the preparation of plans for the preservation of the town and copper works in situ.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
When the copper ore was discovered and the first mining activity began there were scattered farms in the region and the areas near Røros were used for summer grazing, haymaking, hunting, and fishing. Sami people lived there and in the 17th century, with the start of copper mining, they changed from hunting and fishing to nomadic reindeer husbandry.
Mining activity was encouraged by the Danish- Norwegian king Christian IV who needed the income and the metal to enable him to wage his wars of expansion. Silver works were established in Kongsberg (1623), while copper mining began in Kvikne (1630), Røros (1644), Løkken (1654), Selbu (1717), and Folldal (1748).
The first mine where copper ore was found proved not to be commercially exploitable but mining activities started at Storwartz.
In 1646 the king established an area of privileges to be granted to the mining company. Inside the Circumference Røros Copper Works had the monopoly for exploiting the natural resources, and the farmers living there were obliged to work for the company, in return for some form of payment. Farming activities were encouraged and the working timetable of the copper works included one day per week and one month per year free to allow employees to carry out farming work.
The company was organised as a ‘partnership': the copper was distributed among the owners according to the size of their share and they had to make independent arrangements for selling their metal. Operating capital had to be advanced every year, and the company was obliged to provide food supplies and educational and health services to the mining town and its related communities.
The golden age of Røros mining town was between the 1740s and 1814, the date of the end of the privileges when Norway secured its independence.
The operation of copper works remained profitable until the 1860s, when the price of copper fell and operating costs increased. Major technological advances in mining operations were introduced in this period: the construction of the railway (1877), the use of the adapted Bessemer iron-refining process (1887), and the introduction of electricity (1897). All this ensured a further period of prosperity that declined after World War I until the company's bankruptcy in 1977.
Until the 1880s the technology of mining and smelting underwent only occasional and gradual changes and was carried out thanks to animal and water power. To obtain the intermediate product known as copper matte a five-step roasting and smelting process was developed to separate sulphur and iron from copper, which required several days to produce the copper.