World Heritage RørosThe Røros Copper WorksOrganisation and ownership

Organisation and ownership

It was the German miner Lorentz Lossius and a prospector Peter Petersen, from Kvikne Copper Works, who received a concession for a single lode at Rauhaammaaren near Røros.

Astrid Nyhus

 They were each to own half of the strike.

The year after, in 1645, Anders Olsen Bruse, who was the priest at Meidel, received a third of Lossius’ share. The priest was Lossius’ father in law, and was the person who had informed Lossius of the find at Rauhaammaaren. Peter Petersen later transferred his half share to the parish priest at Tynset, Hans Lauritzen. Thereby Lorentz, Lossius, Anders Olsen Bruse and Hans Lauritzen owned the first mine, which was called Freyes Gluck.

Results from Rauhaammaaren did not fulfil their hopes, and the work was stopped after some months. The three owners subsequently received a concession for a find at Storvola. According to tradition, the discovery of copper was by the farmer and hunter, Hans Aasen, but he did not receive a share in the business where Lossius became the first General Manager. Anders Olsen Bruse was a wealthy man and it was he who first financed the new coppermine.

Unfortunately, application for the necessary privileges was not made in time by the copper works. In Copenhagen, Christian 4th’s chamberlain Joachim Irgens had come to hear of the copper works in Røros. According to Peder Hiort, the chamberlain ‘had a special liking for mining activity…’ so the chamberlain himself decided to become a shareholder in the new mine. After a number of manoeuvres, the concession containing the privileges was made out in the name of Joachim Irgens who was owner of 45/60 of Røros copper Works. Much of his success in these manoeuvres must be attributed to the fact that the King had borrowed large sums of money from his chamberlain in order to finance the wars he engaged in. Furthermore it was probably said to the King that this was to be an entirely new copper works.

The founder naturally considered that he had been unjustly treated and a long period of disputes followed. But Joachim Irgens managed to hold on to his ownership. Lossius was sacked from his position as General Manager and Joachim Irgens appointed his brother, Johannes to the post. He was a doctor of medicine and had no experience of mining.

In the coming years the situation around the Røros Copper Works was unsettled because of the problems in management. In addition the war with Sweden started and the Swedes burnt the mining town both in 1678 and in 1679. Finally a commission was appointed called Den Bragnaesiske Commission in order to sort things out, much of the problem was the debt situation left behind by Irgens which was very complicated. From 1685 it was decided that the Company (Røros Copper Works) should be divided into 180 shares of 1,000 riks daler per share, as opposed to the previous arrangements of 60 shares of 3,000 rdl. Per share. As the 1700s progressed majority ownership fell into the hands of rich people from Trondelag with family names of, Thomas and Lorentz Angell, Johan Mangelsen, Helmer Meincke and others. In 1762 the owners (participants) decided that the overall responsibility for the copper works would be transferred to Trondheim. In 1763 on the instruction of the newly appointed General Manager,  new work descriptions were drafted for the assistant managers who worked in Røros.

In 1790 because of lack of cash as a result of fraud, it was decided to start a financial commission. The General Manager, the Mining Manager and the Manager of the smelting house each had a key and all had to be present when funds were placed in the safe deposit or taken out.

As a result of difficulties in running the mine at the beginning of the 1800s, a royal resolution was drawn up to appoint a commission in 1816. The task was to sort things out. The recommendations of the commission were the foundation of Røros Law of 1816. This allowed for the system of privileges to continue and contained a number of decisions concerning benefits paid to both State and the participants, as well as decisions to take better care of the workforce. There were paragraphs dealing with the mining operation, the smelting house and the smelting process, operation in the forest, the Company’s economy, wages paid as well as trade in Røros itself.

In 1888 the position of General Manager was done away with and the Central Commission assumed daily running responsibilities. However, this arrangement was not successful. Therefore, in 1895 management was again transferred to an individual person.

The Great Strike, or General Strike of 1901, meant that it was again necessary to examine conditions at the works, so a commission was appointed. The commission recommended that the Røros Law should be repealed as soon as possible. The participants formed a share company, which took effect from the beginning of 1910.

After the First World War (1914 – 1918) the copper works experienced great difficulties and there was wide unemployment because of lay offs. The difficulties of 1920s and the 1930s led to another reorganisation of Røros Copper Works in 1936. A new share company was formed with share majority in the hands of the State and a local group and the administration would be centred in Røros. The Committee was dissolved and the Company headed up by a new Board of Directors. The Law of Stocks and Shares of 1972 led to changes in the composition of the Board, allowing for the introduction of a representative of the workers to sit on the Board.

Despite good results in the early 1970s, falling copper and zinc prices led to the closing down of the works in 1977.

Sources:
Dahle, H.: Røros Kobberværk 1644-1894, Trondheim 1894
Nissen, Gunnar Brun: Røros Kobberverk 1644-1974, Trondheim 1972
Øisang, Ole: Røros Kobberverks historie, Rørosboka bind 2, Trondheim 1942


Røros was added to UNESCOs of World Heritage Sites in 1980, refer also to Riksantikvaren, ( Norwegian Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings).
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