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Free, hired, and paid
After the discovery of a significant silver vein in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines in 1549, between 2,000 and 3,000 workers converged in the region. Highly qualified miners from Italy, Germany, or Austria offered their know-how to the highest bidders. They brought innovative techniques that allowed improving water evacuation down the galleries. The mines also relied on a poor local or immigrant workforce who sought to make its life better. All the miners employed in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines were free, hired, and paid.
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