Historical and old photos of Kongsberg, Viken
Kongsberg was founded by Danish-Norwegian king Christian IV as a mining community in 1624 after the discovery of silver. In the second year, the town of Kongsberg and the Kongsberg Silver Mines were built. According to official records, the Kongsberg silver mine was discovered by the shepherds Jacob Grosvold and Helge Værp in the summer of 1623. According to the indications of silver mining, the existence of a large amount of precious metals was known before. With the rise of the silver mining industry, it became the largest industrial center in Norway before the industrial revolution. By the peak of the Kongsberg silver mine in the early eighteenth century, Kongsberg's silver mining industry and related industries contributed 10% of the Denmark–Norway gross national product.
In order to develop the Kongsberg Silver Mines, Christian IV hired Germans from the silver mines of Saxony and Harz. In addition, there are also Germans from other mines in Norway. The Germans brought the basic knowledge of mining, which was especially important during the start-up phase of the Kongsberg Silver Mines. Before 1623, the area where the city was located was the royal territory of the original Sandsvær.
Four years after the establishment of the Kongsberg Silver Mines, most of the 1,500 workers and officials were still German. The Norwegians gradually entered the work of Kongsberg and were hired as supervisors. In 1636, 1,370 Germans and 1,600 Norwegians participated in the work. In 1648, 1,500 Germans and 2,400 Norwegians worked in Kongsberg.
Since 1681, gunpowder has been officially introduced for mining. Mining in the particularly hard Kongsberg Mountain is energy intensive, so the silver mine continues to develop technology throughout the operation to reduce production costs. A large artificial dam powers the mine's hoisting system before electricity is introduced. In 1624, a road from Hokksund to Kongsberg was built to serve the Kongsberg Silver Mines, the most important road built in Norway in the 17th century. In 1665, the road was extended to Kristiansand and Larvik.
In 1683, the mining industry became the pillar industry of the state. The rapid development of Kongsberg means that the number of workers in the city has increased significantly by the end of the 17th century. The proportion of Norwegians in the workforce has increased, but for a long time, the position of the main staff is still dominated by the Germans. Kongsberg is almost a small part of Germany in Norway: the mine has a German name, the official language is only in German, and later in German and Danish. In Kongsberg, the German mountain justice system is also used. Legally, this means that the city is bound by independent regulations, such as partially separating the mining community from the country's general laws. The Germans brought a Knappschaft, including free medical assistance, a pension plan, worker sick leave and a Saturday break. The most characteristic ring agriculture in Kongsberg may also be inspired by Germany.
The proceeds from the silver mining industry provided a valuable grant for the tight finances of Denmark. Denmark–Norway relies heavily on the silver of Kongsberg to support the ongoing war against Sweden. Precious metals are also becoming more and more important in the Denmark–Norway currency production. Therefore, in order to get closer to the source of raw materials, the 1686 Royal Mint moved from Akershus to Kongsberg. During the Great Northern War, in 1716, the city became the main target of Karl XII’s stay in Norderhof.
Kongsberg is particularly known for its Kongsberg Silver Mines and its high purity，at the same time, Kongsberg's mine also contains a certain amount of high-purity gold and a large amount of copper, cobalt, lead-zinc and fluorite. From which roughly 15,750 tonnes (34,720,000 lb) of silver was extracted between the discovery of the silver ore seams in 1623 and the last year of mining in 1957.The mining volume of the Kongsberg silver mine began to increase substantially at the end of the 17th century.In the 1769 census, the mines employed about 4,000 workers. With 8,000 inhabitants in total, the town was the second largest in Norway, after Bergen (and thus larger than today's capital, Oslo).
In Norway's 1749 census, Kongsberg was the most populous town in Eastern Norway. It was granted its royal charter of trade—amounting to official township—in 1802. Following several hard years with reduced silver output from the mines, the war of 1807–1814, and a severe town fire in 1810 where 56 houses on the west side were destroyed, mining was complemented by the government establishing a defense industry in 1814. By 1835, the population had declined to 3,540.
Kongsberg is home to the Royal Norwegian Mint (Norwegian: Det Norske Myntverket), which mints Norwegian coins and also produces circulating and collectors' coins for other countries such as Israel. It was established in 1686, and was renamed from the Royal Norwegian Mint (Norwegian: Den Kongelige Mynt) in 2004 after having been sold to private investors (the Mint of Finland and Norwegian company Samlerhuset) in 2003. Kongsberg is also the site of the Kongsberg School of Mines (Kongsberg Bergseminar), an academic institution for mining technology which operated from 1757 to 1814.
During peaceful times, the defence industry gradually evolved into many other kinds of high tech activities as well, now dominating the town's employment. In 1987, however, the state-owned Kongsberg Weapons Factory (Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk) suffered a major financial crisis as well as accusations of breaching the CoCom rules by selling sensitive technology to the Soviet bloc. As a result, the company was split into several smaller units and partly sold to private investors. Today, the separate firms thrive as one of Norway's main high-tech industrial clusters, centering on the defence and maritime company Kongsberg Gruppen which is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange.