Freiberg is the principal city of the Erzgebirge (the ore mountains) in Saxony, one of Europe’s principal sources of metallic ores, a mining region that extended into the present Czech Republic. Freiberg was granted privileges that made it the first free mining city in Germany in the mid-14th century, and extraction of silver and iron ores reached a peak in the 15th and 16th centuries, when technologies in the Erzgebirge were illustrated by Georgius Agricola . In the 18th 19th and 20th centuries the region produced lead, zinc, tin, nickel, cobalt and uranium. The most substantial monuments of the mining industry are the Abrahamschacht, with pithead buildings of 1839, and the Alte Elisabeth, with structures of the 1840s, including a steam engine made by Constantin Pfaff of Chemnitz.
The history of mining is comprehensively depicted in the Municipal and Mining Museum, and the technical university, that incorporates the mining academy established in 1765, has extensive geological and mineralogical collections dating from the years of its foundation and earlier, that are displayed to the public.