In the presence of Federal Ministers Peter Altmaier and Heiko Maas, the new RAG representative office – a communications centre in a former machine hall – and the Saarpolygon landmark – a 30 m tall steel sculpture – have been opened in mid-September at the Duhamel plant in Ensdorf/Germany (Figures 1, 2). Peter Schrimpf, Vice Chairman of RAG Aktiengesellschaft, Herne/Germany, welcomed around 600 guests to the ceremony.
The decommissioning of the coal mining industry on 30th June 2012 saw the dawn of a new era in the Saar which aims to create new prospects for former mining sites as an alternative to coal production. “This has already been successful in many locations: Innovative companies are relocating to mining areas, new industrial estates and residential areas are being built, solar plants on these sites are now generating green energy instead of non-renewable, with wind farms to follow shortly,” clarifies Peter Schrimpf. He added that RAG continues to bear responsibility for the region in the post-mining era. This included mining relics such as damage caused by mining, old tunnels and shafts or surface mining from the early days of the industry. In order to create new prospects, shafts have to be filled, surfaces restored, surface installations dismantled and the Mining Control Authority disbanded. According to him, the Saar mine water concept for optimising water retention is another key element.
The new RAG representative office has transformed a historic machine hall in the Saar into a place of cooperation and communication, for meeting and dialogue in Ensdorf. The Saarpolygon stands as another symbol of change and awakening at the heart of the celebration, emphasised Schrimpf. The “audacious project” is said to be unparalleled around the world. The construction project was only made possible thanks to the financial support of the Saarland, the RAG and the RAG-Stiftung, as well as donations from private individuals and companies. Schrimpf paid special thanks to the friends’ association, BergbauErbeSaar, for its outstanding commitment to realising the work of art on the 150 m tall spoil tip.
Prime-Minister of the Saarland, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, underlined the symbolic importance of the Saarpolygon as a representation of the federal state’s mining heritage and creative structural change. “It should serve as a constant reminder of our roots, while also guiding us into the future. I would like to thank everyone who worked on this project and I hope that Saarlanders will take time to appreciate this new, walk-through landmark,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The RAG-Stiftung provided a relatively large amount of funding at a very early stage, which allowed the Saarpolygon to be completed. Bärbel Bergerhoff-Wodopia, Member of the Board of Executives of the RAG-Stiftung, was equally impressed: “The polygon is multi-faceted in the truest sense. Not only does it stand for the legacy and commitment of miners, it will also remind us of the tasks that lie ahead in this changing region. The new RAG representative office will contribute towards tackling some of these tasks locally – as a place of exchange and mediation.”
Anke Rehlinger, Minister for Economic Affairs, Employment, Energy and Transport in Saarland, highlighted the following: “Mining has shaped our society and established values that we must not give up. Our mining heritage will live on thanks to the Saarpolygon. But it doesn’t end there. Now it is our job to convey the significance of this place not only as a symbol of tradition but also as a strong indication of change and the forward-looking nature of the Saarland. I am certain that the Saarpolygon will become a landmark for our federal state.” (RAG/Si.)