More and more countries are worried about the effects of coal-based power generation and are increasing their efforts to address the consequences of mining operations in a sustainable way. The Georg Agricola Technical University (THGA) in Bochum/Germany is engaged in pioneering work in this field and is therefore a popular partner for research and training worldwide: In the future, the state-operated Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will collaborate with training specialist DMT-LB, the THGA’s holding company, on post-mining activities. A corresponding cooperation agreement was signed on 17th November 2016 in Bangkok/Thailand by the Chairman of the Executive Board at DMT-LB, the President of the THGA, Prof. Jürgen Kretschmann, and the EGAT Director of Mining, Thaworn Ngamganokwan (Figure 1).
EGAT is by far the most important energy supplier in the emerging Southeast Asian country and produces around 37 % of all electricity in Thailand. Approximately one fifth of this is generated at coal-fired power stations. Among others, EGAT operates the Mae Moh facility in the north of the country, which is home to the largest open-cast lignite mine in Southeast Asia. This site covers an area of 135 km2 and supplies around 16 mt of lignite per year. Mining operations have been underway since the 1950s and are scheduled to be terminated in 2051.
“Anyone looking at the German lignite mining area in the Lower Rhine and Lusatia regions will have some idea of the major challenges being faced at the huge site in Mae Moh,” explained Prof. Kretschmann on the occasion of signing the contract. “We are happy to support Thailand in finding secure and environmentally friendly solutions, as well as developing a sustainable post-utilisation strategy.” This included both risk management – incorporating ecological, economic and social aspects – and concrete measures, such as safeguarding and cleaning up contaminated areas or those at risk of landslides. The Research Institute of Post-Mining and the geotechnics experts from the THGA can support the Thai company with their expertise here. Alongside joint research and development projects, the collaboration is also to include basic and advanced training. In fact, EGAT is keen to send selected employees to the THGA to complete Masters degrees or dissertation projects.
Experience from the Ruhr region has shown that cultural factors also have an important part to play for the future-oriented handling of the post-mining age. “Maintaining an industrial culture and creatively filling it with life makes a big difference with regard to how people experience and accept processes of change,” explained Prof. Kretschmann. This is why the German Mining Museum (DBM) has also been included in the collaboration with EGAT. The THGA and the DBM are both financed by DMT-LB. (THGA, Si.)