More than a year has passed since the last two mines of the RAG Aktiengesellschaft, Essen/Germany, ceased production. Despite the halt in production, however, work continues both above and below ground at the mines of Prosper-Haniel in Bottrop and Ibbenbüren in the Tecklenburg region. Indeed, there were a number of tasks that remained to be completed in a reliable and responsible manner.
The 21st December 2018 saw the close of the last chapter of the history of active coal mining in Germany, at the Franz Haniel mining pit. In front of 500 attendees and guests of honour – which included then President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Armin Laschet, Minister-President of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia – President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier accepted the last piece of coal produced in Germany. The key commemorative event held in Bottrop was a historic moment for the Ruhr District, the Federal Republic of Germany and Germany as a whole, which bid a solemn farewell to the country’s coal mining industry.
Now that the phasing-out period has run its cause, however, the closure operations remain – and they are by no means an easy task. Consequently, miners have been unearthing everything that needs to be disposed of for environmental reasons from the mine workings. This has included equipment and components that would ideally continue to be used in a variety of potential applications on the global market. In addition to carrying out the necessary preparation work on the Prosper-Haniel and Ibbenbüren mines, the RAG organisation has most recently sold off elements that particularly include ventilation systems, gearing mechanisms and strip material from the underground section, as well as equipment from the workshops above ground. These were then sold on to recipients in different countries, in particular Poland and Turkey – although some of this equipment also went to buyers in Germany.
At present, shafts 9 and 10 of the Prosper-Haniel mine near the Bottrop districts of Grafenwald and Kirchhellen are being filled in. Even the Haniel mine where the German President was presented with the last piece of coal is being prepared for filling, with RAG continuing to drain water underground here today. In future, the Hünxe shaft will become part of the planned central dewatering works in Lohberg. The Prosper-Haniel mine workings have shrunk considerably, and the length of the route network has been reduced from its former 120 km to a total of just 8 km (Figure 1). The end of the year 2019 marked the end of the mine employing any workers.
In Ibbenbüren too, significant progress has been made with closure operations over the course of 2019. The mine pit workings have been reduced by almost another 16 km to a total of 30.5 km. The company has also submitted a plan for the closure of underground operations to the district government. A first shaft, known as the Theodor shaft, has already been filled to the point of stability (Figure 2).
Closure operations for the other shafts as well as from the central mine workings with discontinuation of deep water drainage are progressing according to plan. The situation is similar for overground closure work: The first few buildings have already been handed over for subsequent use by organisations such as the municipal works for the Tecklenburg region. The number of direct employees in Ibbenbüren has been reduced from 609 to 271.
With regard to the plans of the RAG for dealing with mine water, upward extraction of mine water has already been approved for some underground mine workings – namely for Walsum, as well as for partial operations in Lohberg, Auguste Victoria, Haus Aden and Ibben-büren (Westfeld). Currently, approval procedures are being prepared for other mine workings or are already ongoing, as is the case for Prosper-Haniel, Zollverein and the Ostfeld section of Ibbenbüren. The final procedures for the approval of the upward extraction of mine water are set to continue until 2024 at the latest. The final construction measures must be completed with the Lohberg site by 2030 at the latest. (RAG/Si.)