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Forest – the greatest challenge

In a note from the Copper Works administration written in 1719 it says, ‘The most meaningful shortage, is the inadequacy of the forests within the Circumference.’

Kirsti Jordet

There are many similar statements from representatives of the Company. And like an echo this is repeated time and again by the people who visit Røros. (Bedamar, Breton, Clarke, Fabricius, Kraft, Linne, Malthus, Schøning and others).

So this is the key problem, the bottleneck that would decide how the Company’s production would fare. The explanation can be found in the way in which the work was undertaken in the mine and in the smelting houses in the ‘old days’ that is to say in the period up to 1890.

In the mines, firewood was stacked up against the copper-rich rock and the intense heat served to make the rock brittle and it was then easier to break it down with handtools. The 5 step smelting system needed vast amounts of firewood for the cold and turn pulverisation processes

Sverre Odegaard has calculated that if one compares the volume of smelted ore with the volume of forestry products needed in the mine and the smelting houses. The amount of charcoal and wood was approximately 11 times greater in volume than the volume of selted ore, approximately 15 times if one adds in the wood stacked up against the rock in the mines. And if we were to add the wood required for buildings etc. would the figure rise to 20 times?

For the 250 or so years that the ‘old time’ existed something like 12,000,000 cubic metres of trees have been used by Røros Copper Works. On an average the annual figure was ca. 50,000 cu.m. The county forest officer, Galaaen has informed us that today, on an annual basis only some 20,000-30,000 cu.m. are felled in the district. As the volume of felled timber was so enormous there was, of course a great demand for tree fellers, charcoal burners, drovers and pulling power in the form of horses and oxen to cope with the transportation.

Røros Copper Works tried for a long tome to extend the 1646 circumference. To some extent they succeeded as in 1753 the county administration decided that the Company could share an area with a radius of 30 km. having its centre at the smelting house at Alvdal with Fredriks gaves Verk.

But the circumference did not solve the lack of resources and was repealed in 1818. Other legal methods were employed. A minerals order, (Law or regulation) of 1683 gave the Company the right to tax free utilisation of State and Church forests. The Company also entered into agreements with private landowners. There is a famous delivery agreement from 1735 with the farmers in Tylldalen.

Røros Copper Works engaged in many court cases (against the people of Rendal and the small holders of Aas in Vingelen and the inhabitants of Tolga) they purchased a property in Singaas, a church property in Gauldalen, the hamlet of Tufsingdalen in 1726 Fredriks gaves verk, their greatest competitor was purchased in 1826, Barkaldgarden was purchased in 1806 where there was more than 10.000 maal forest (2,500 acres)

In many outlying districts the Company organised a system of Crown Forests, which were marked off with crowns. Very strict rules were laid down regardless of who owned these lands. The Company were also prone to introduce many different types of restrictions. The Company did not tolerate the sale of timber to dealers from eastern Norway and they introduced regulations against such sales. The cutting of branches for animal fodder was banned, as was the keeping of goats. The people of Tufsingdalen were prevented from putting up more timber buildings and also stopped from renting rooms to people. The idea was, the more people allowed in, the more wood they would need. The ban against using bark in the baking of bread was not introduced as it would have been too difficult to monitor or check.

In 1751 Røros Copper Works assisted in getting the boundary with Sweden moved to the east, thereby making the forests to the east of Femund Norwegian. At the same time it was agreed that Swedish people on the boundary could deliver timber to Røros. And naturally the Company welcomed the union with Sweden in 1814. 

In 1818 the effective forest districts were as follows:

Gauldal County: 33.89 square miles. (1 Norwegian mile 0 10 km.)

Nor-Osterdal County 82.10 square miles

More and more the Company depended on areas furthest to the south, souther parts of Engerdal, Rendalen and the areas between Alvdal and Atna. During the period between 1851 and 1867 the annual consumption was 11,880 loads of charcoal (23,760 cu.m.) and of this 5,084 loads came from the mentioned areas. The managers of the Copper Works could at last relax slightly with regard to their long fight to ensure the Company’s chances of continuing production.


”Rørosboka”, bind 2 (1942)
Espelund: ”Kobber i Det Nordenfjeldske Bergamt” (1998)
Utstilling Rørosmuseet
Kgl. Resolusjon av 4. desember 1753
Fryjordet: ”Skogadministrasjonen i Norge gjennom tidene”, bind 1 (1992)
”Indberetning fra den…1875 nedsatte Kommision….”, her kalt: ”Kommisjonen av 1875
Midtdal: ”Tufsingdalen. Garder og slekter” (1991)
Solør og Østerdal sorenskriverarkiv, tingbok 29. Åstedssak 3. juli 1691
O. Andersen: ”Bygdebok for Engerdal”, bind 2
Bergebakken: ”En gardhandel i 1806”, ”Fjell-folk” 1999

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