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Mining as an industry underwent dramatic changes in medieval Europe. The mining industry in the early Middle Ages was mainly focused on the extraction of copper and iron. Other precious metals were also used, mainly for gilding or coinage. Initially, many metals were obtained through open-pit mining, and ore was primarily extracted from shallow depths, rather than through deep mine shafts. Around the 14th century, the growing use of weapons, armour, stirrups, and horseshoes greatly increased the demand for iron. Medieval knights, for example, were often laden with up to 100 pounds of plate or chain link armour in addition to swords, lances and other weapons. The overwhelming dependency on iron for military purposes spurred iron production and extraction processes.

The silver crisis of 1465 occurred when all mines had reached depths at which the shafts could no longer be pumped dry with the available technology. Although an increased use of bank notes, credit and copper coins during this period did decrease the value of, and dependenence on, precious metals, gold and silver still remained vital to the story of medieval mining.

Use of water power in the form of water mills was extensive. The water mills were employed in crushing ore, raising ore from shafts, and ventilating galleries by powering giant bellows. Black powder was first used in mining in Selmecbánya, Kingdom of Hungary (now Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia) in 1627. Black powder allowed blasting of rock and earth to loosen and reveal ore veins. Blasting was much faster than fire-setting and allowed the mining of previously impenetrable metals and ores. In 1762, the world's first mining academy was established in the same town there.

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Mining in Europe has a very long history. Examples include the silver mines of Laurium, which helped support the Greek city state of Athens. At other mines, such as on the island

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