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Fig.1. // Bild 1. Ende des Bergbaus im Bensberger Revier vor 40 Jahren

“We cleaned up. We were the last ones standing.”

27th October 2018: Forty years ago to the day, the “final tonne of ore” was mined at the Lüderich pit, the last remaining mine in the Bensberg ore mining district. A total of around 10 Mt of ore were brought to the surface between 1852 and 1978. Previously a heavily agricultural region, the focus shifted to the mining industry, which became a major influence in the area. The anniversary of the end of the mining industry has prompted the Rösrath History Association to commemorate this industrial heritage with a book.

The history of ore mining is not the primary focus of the book. Instead, it focusses on giving a voice to the last generation of miners. In detailed interviews, ten former pit employees provide insights into their former lives and give their own very individual perspectives on the mine and its closure: Why does someone decide to become a miner? What was day-to-day life like and how was it affected by the technological revolution in the last few decades of mining? What was it like to experience the end of mining? How did working life turn out after that?

The personal element of the book is what really sparks the reader’s interest. What makes it so eminently readable is that, rather than concentrating solely on the overall picture, it homes in on the small stories and memories. When, e. g., the former manager of the technical office recounts how and why a gear shaft in the main shaft winding engine broke and an emergency hoisting system had to be set up in the central shaft, it is as if you were there yourself, automatically evoking memories of similar experiences in one’s own mining career. You think “Whether you worked in the ore or coal mining industry, the experiences you had were always the same.” The solidarity amongst workers of all backgrounds, as well as the challenges and dangers encountered underground, leave their mark on a miner.

It is worth pointing out here how much care has been taken to bring all these stories to life with original photographs from the time. Both the photographs and the additional drawings are of high quality. One of the highlights of the book, which is all too often not the case, is that it uses authentic miner’s vocabulary throughout. For those who have no experience of the mining industry, there is a very good glossary at the end of the book that explains this “language” to the uninitiated.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the mining industry, as it offers a wonderful, human insight into a bygone era of mining, a major industry at the time but one much less familiar to those spread across Germany as a whole. It also explains that, contrary to popular opinion, Germany does not suffer from a lack of raw materials, but rather that it does not have significant reserves of raw materials that can currently be extracted economically. Dipl.-Ing. Karsten Gutberlet, Essen/Germany

Ende des Bergbaus im Bensberger Revier vor 40 Jahren* (2018): 192 pages, 24 cm x 21 cm, hardcover, four-colour printing, packed with images.

Retail price 19.80 €, available in bookshops or from Geschichtsverein Rösrath, www.gv-roesrath.de ISBN 978-3-922413-72-1