The dramatic development of mechanical engineering and transportation at the beginning of the 19 th century meant that Alpine mining and metallurgy needed to step up a gear. This was only going to be possible with academically trained experts and so the curators of the Joanneum, a technical university founded by Archduke Johann in 1811, submitted a proposal for the foundation of a university for metallurgy on 16 November 1814. This was suggested by Archduke Johann himself, the founder and protector of the Joanneum, but initially failed due to the lack of suitable teaching personnel; however, the plan was not allowed to fade away as it was urgently needed.
The curators applied once again for the establishment of a university for metallurgy in 1828. They proposed Vordernberg, the most significant Alpine iron mining site at the time, as the location for this university. In an amazingly prescient judgement of human character, Archduke Johann named the 24-year-old Peter Tunner as the future professor in 1833 and he was duly appointed in 1835. Between 1945 and 1955, student admissions rose from 300 to 600. New fields of study were gradually introduced from around 1955 onwards, which meant that the combined range of subjects for mining and metallurgy now included everything from raw materials to working materials, alongside the traditional core subjects. By 1969, the University of Mining had 25 institutions for six different fields of study: Mining, Mine Surveying, Petroleum Engineering, Metallurgy, Mineralogy and Mechanical Engineering. Polymer Engineering and Materials Science were added in 1970/71. Around 1970, seven new institutions were established to cover the swift rise in teaching requirements as the result of this differentiation in subject areas.
The large extension at Ignaz-Buchmüller-Platz that had been underway since 1962 was also opened at the same time. The new Peter-Tunner building was opened in October 1990. In accordance with the plans drawn up by the architect Eilfried Huth, the existing institutional building was adapted and converted into a modern building, including historical materials for the geoscience institution. The University of Mining celebrated its 150th anniversary in October 1990. The reaction and recognition that it received from experts, the state, industry and business at the time was a very pleasing confirmation of the path that it had chosen and the efforts made by everyone involved. Two new fields of study were also established: Applied Geosciences and Industrial Environmental Protection, Waste Disposal Technology and Recycling. Industrial Logistics was established in 2003 and the Bachelors programme in Industrial Energy Technology was established in 2012 (the Masters programme having been available since 2009). Two new degrees were launched in 2014: the bachelor's and master's degree in Recycling, and the Joint Master Programme Advanced Mineral Resources Development, the latter of which is held entirely in English. There are 16 university departments for postgraduate education. In 1981 the university held more than 1000 students. A new record was reached with 3700 students in winter semester 2014. The old district court was converted into the Roh- und Werkstoffzentrum (RWZ) in 2006. The new IZW (Impulszentrum für Werkstoffe) was opened in 2007.
This houses the academic organisational units, the MCL (Materials Center Leoben) and PCCL (Polymer Competence Center Leoben) competence centres and administrative organisational units for Montanuniversität, linked together via a glass bridge. The renovated lecture theatre wing, with its Erzherzog-Johann-Auditorium was reopened in Autumn 2009. The Polymer Engineering department relocated to the new Zentrum für Kunststofftechnik Leoben in Spring 2010. The former voestalpine research and data-processing centre has been converted into the Kunststofftechnik-Institute. The Impulszentrum Rohstoffe (IZR) opened in 2011, housing the research activities for the Mineral Resources Engineering and Petroleum Engineering departments.