What might mining look like in the future? How should the post-mining era be shaped? And how can raw material extraction, post-mining and sustainability be interlinked? These topics were considered by the Society of Mining Professors (SOMP), who met in Bochum/Germany from 1st to 4th July 2019 for the “Glückauf Future” conference (Figure 1). Around 110 renowned scientists from around the world exchanged their experiences at the Georg Agricola University of Applied Sciences (THGA). They had been invited by THGA President Prof. Jürgen Kretschmann, who is currently SOMP President and thus the head of the world’s leading professional association of mining industry sciences for one year.
As part of the conference, the experts reflected on concepts for modern and future-oriented mining in lectures and discussions. They also considered how disused mines can be secured and how industrial and urban landscapes can be successfully restructured. The participants were able to survey some successful real-life examples of regional structural change first-hand during excursions. The conference at the THGA was supported by the RAG Foundation, Essen/Germany. “Mining in the Ruhr area not only generated coal, but also wealth, technology, science, education, social life and culture,” said Bärbel Bergerhoff-Wodopia, member of the board of the RAG Foundation, when welcoming the international delegates. “High-level technical skills have been developed here for over 200 years. The Ruhr area is now becoming a hub of post-mining knowledge.”
In the past year, the mining experts have already met in Bochum to discuss “technological footprints in the German coal mining industry”. This year, the conference was dedicated to the future of mining and to the “After”. German academics and the THGA, with its post-mining research centre, which is unique in the world, are pioneers in both of these fields. “We draw on our research and on the experiences of the Ruhr area to support mining regions across the world to optimise socio-ecological conditions and to minimise the dangers to the soil, water, air and people.
The roots of the SOMP can be traced back to the 18th century. Its predecessor, the “Societät der Bergbaukunde” was founded in 1762 by mining experts from 21 countries. Mining science was developing rapidly during this period and the exchange of ideas became important as a driver of progress. One honorary member of that era: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The name of the present “Society of Mining Professors/Societät der Bergbau-kunde”, founded in 1990, is clearly intended to establish it as a direct descendant of its predecessor. The principal objective, both then and now: to secure and exchange the scientific and technical knowledge necessary for a sustainable supply of minerals for humanity. The Society currently numbers 287 researchers from 45 countries. They represent 178 research institutions from all around the world. SOMP is thus the world’s leading professional association for mining industry sciences. Their annual meeting is the most important event in mining industry research internationally.
Post-mining is “Research for Eternity” and is particularly closely aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is enormous potential, especially for the implementation of the UN SDGs of affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth and industry, innovation and infrastructure. Where we once produced coal, we can now generate renewable energy. In the Ruhr area, there are numerous examples of how tips and former colliery sites can become commercial, residential and leisure areas. At the research centre, an interdisciplinary team is focusing in particular on research in the areas of geomonitoring, materials sciences, environmental technology and geoecology as well as into the corresponding future potentials,. Their findings are feeding into areas including e. g. mine water management by RAG Aktiengesellschaft, which is being technically implemented in a new mine water control room at the former Pluto mine in Herne. (THGA/Si.)