Around 9,000 km as the crow flies separate Medellín in Colombia and Bochum in Germany. However, there is one thing they share over this great distance – both towns are home to distinguished universities with a focus on raw materials science. The Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL) and the Georg Agricola Technical University (THGA) have been in partnership since 2015. For the first time, a group of 15 UNAL students has now visited the THGA and not only got to know the university, but also gained diverse perspectives of the “mining region” (Figure 1).
Colombia is one of Germany’s three most important coal suppliers. While the Ruhr region is preparing for the closure of the last mines at the end of 2018, the South American country is extracting more than 85 mt/a of “mined gold”. Crude oil, nickel and gold are also mined on a large scale, with the demand for young talent in raw materials engineering being equally large. Their studies at the UNAL focus increasingly on the issues of sustainability and environmental protection, as the Colombian mining industry has much catching up to do in these areas and is the target of criticism both nationally and internationally. It was for this reason that the students from Medellín who visited Bochum with their Professor Oscar Jaime Restrepo Baena were especially interested in the world’s only Research Institute of Post-Mining which is located at the THGA, as well as the Master’s program in Geoengineering and Post-Mining. Over the course of a laboratory tour and joint workshops with THGA researchers and students, the young engineering talent from UNAL exchanged knowledge about the latest technologies and processes for handling the consequences of mining.
On two extended tours, the Colombians discovered how the Ruhr mining region was impacted by coal mining and how it has changed during the gradual phase-out. They started by visiting the Zollverein coal mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the on-site Ruhr Museum, followed by a climb up the Schurenbach slag heap where they took in its impressive panorama over the northern Ruhr region. (THGA/Si.)