The miner Marcel Pawlinka just a few of the visitors through the coal mine Prosper-Haniel in Bottrop, as he turns abruptly to the left and in front of a man high Walzenrad. “Here,” he calls to his group. It is on the seventh bottom of the shaft, ten, in 1200 meters in depth. Pawlinka, a man with broad shoulders and a yellow helmet on the head, knocking with the Hand on the reel, very gently, as he would Pat an old dog in the head.

Bergmann Marcel Pawlinka, Prosper-Haniel

The wheel was once a part of a Shearer, it has an outdoor small peaks, the Peck, the eaten for years in the soil and millions of tons of coal mined. Now the wheel has served its purpose, it is the colliery on the floor. “Dat is coming to the Museum,” says Pawlinka and shows on a label on the wheel: “For the mining heritage”, it says. Pawlinka sighs softly.

the Prosper-Haniel mine is the last coal mine in Germany, this Friday, this mine is officially closed. During the Ceremony, miners, Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier celebration will present the last piece of coal. Then the machines are turned off – in Bottrop, Germany and in the Rest of the country.

mourning for the good old time

It’s the end of an Era, an industry, the state of North Rhine-dominated Westphalia like no other. For 150 years, was brought to the black Gold out of the ground to generate electricity or to produce iron. Farewell to the coal, say the miners to Prosper-Haniel, to feel for you is almost like the death of an old friend. Six million tonnes, to tell you, you could have been in Bottrop per year promote. You could have gone on for at least 40 years.

But there are also voices that say that the exit was coming much too late. For some people, the coal stands for the centuries-long exploitation of nature, they complain about the damage and the consequences for the environment, which are not yet foreseeable. For the a the Mines of the sacred places for other ticking time bombs.

It goes these days in the Ruhr area, which views the coal is adequate. It is part of their heritage? Or Mortgage?

In the fifty years around 600,000 people in Germany were living from the coal. At Prosper-Haniel tell how your coal I formerly supplied electricity to Berlin. And to Wolfsburg, to the power plants of Volkswagen. “Cars can’t with wind turbines to build,” says a PAL.

perspectives for the mountain people

Nevertheless, the policy decided in the year 2007, from coal mining to get out. The subsidies, which the industry had to be supported for decades, were too high. In countries such as the Ukraine or China, coal is already cheaper from the soil – also, because it is not so deep.

The mining group RAG (formerly Ruhrkohle AG) has adopted in the past few years, 30,000 people in retirement or in early retirement.

The RAG was ten years ago, about 34,000 employees, most of them has been adopted by the company, in the meantime, in retirement or in early retirement. The 2,500 found new Jobs, some had moved on to partner companies of the RAG. Mountain people like Marcel Pawlinka help a brokerage company to find a new profession. Some have found Bodies in the care of the elderly, the dude can tackle.

No miner should remain without perspective, the Motto, the policy, and the unions promise for years. You can say: During the phase-out of coal was clear early on what is the buddy. What happens to the environment, remains probably still longer a mystery.

Dangerous poisonous cargo

By mining the surface of the Ruhrpotts was full of holes like a cheese, the city of Essen has dropped in the past few decades, by about 30 meters. Again and again bags in the coal towns, all of a sudden the ground, there are cracks and craters, hundreds of houses in North Rhine-Westphalia are wrong. The government estimates that there are about 1000 abandoned shafts, above which the risk for such day breaks.

these are the visible consequences of mining, the invisible might be even worse.

Up to 30 years ago were used in the mines, hydraulic oils, PCB containing. The chemical is carcinogenic and is now banned worldwide. In some of the Collieries are still in camp, thousands of tons of it, as well as the toxic hazardous waste that was disposed of below. In the nineties you had thought it was a good idea, industrial waste in the Depths of the mines to pump out and include. Out of sight, out of mind.

More at LEVEL+ FRIEDEMANN VOGEL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock farewell to the coal in the Ruhr area, Glückauf, the Steiger

The RAG needs to pump out the pit water from the abandoned mines, day and night, to all eternity. It will be headed, especially in the Rhine. Alone, Prosper-Haniel, the pumps suck every year three million cubic meters. This is to prevent the downward skidded the Ruhr area is transformed into a landscape of lakes. And that the contaminated water from the Mines mixed with the groundwater.

Contaminated by

at the same time be flooded, large parts of the mines, up to about 600 meters depth, the RAG will allow the pit water to rise. The toxins still remain in the earth? Or get somehow into the ground water, to the surface, in the rivers?

The regional government in Düsseldorf has given an opinion on the possible environmental impact in order. The result: No increase in PCB load in the water, no risk due to the release of substances visible, no action is required. However, not all are as relaxed as the expert.

“You thought you could control nature, and has not brought things down there, who hear, definitely,” says the Green-a member of the Landtag Wibke Brems, “this is a huge burden for future generations.” In some of the disused mines, the water level rises, the brake would have to Worry about. You know much too little about the underground, she says. “There are no facts should be established before the government has approved the overall concept of the RAG and it has been at any location where, in the future, water will be pumped out, in advance of an environmental impact assessment.”

There are experts who fear that with the end of mining, the attention for the Contamination disappears. As the geologist Ulrich Peter joke of Gelsenwasser, one of the largest drinking water suppliers in Germany. There was a need for “strict Monitoring,” he says, the monitors have a “safe distance” between the pit water and groundwater. The RAG have not submitted a concept but still.

Should the PCB eventually into the drinking water, was “an absolute horror scenario,” says Peter joke.

RAG demonstrates carelessness

The RAG shall inform, on request, that will ensure a buffer zone between the pit water level and drinking water extraction, the “large enough” and “about the physically and hydrologically necessary distances significantly beyond”. You’ll continuously monitor. With other words: Everything is fine, don’t worry.

Video: farewell to the coal – “This is hard”


You look these days anyway, to the coal mine in Bottrop. 500 guests are expected to Prosper-Haniel, after which the Federal President has held the last coal in the hands, will he recite a speech. Jean-Claude Juncker and Armin Laschet. A choir will sing, a Symphony orchestra play. The buddy will still sing the climbing song, with tears in his eyes. It comes to a worthy end.

A few miners are to remain until 2020 to Prosper-Haniel, you will build the machines and conveyor belts back and they bring to the surface, in addition, the Oils and fats. Everything is made of metal and steel, is left at the bottom. Thereafter, the shafts are concreted over, the water is rising.

In the hope that deep in the earth’s interior, everything stays in the place where it is.

Sam Yoon has many years of experiences in journalism. He has covered such areas as information technology, science, sports and politics. Yoon can be reached at 82-2-6956-6698.