The heritage: Mining in Saarland - Part VII

State Chancellery Saarland

The last shift, Eternities, Landscape

Coal production in Saarland came to an end in 2012 after over 250 years. This was a defining moment for Saarland because it was almost impossible to imagine the federal state without the mining industry. The ups and downs of the entire federal state were closely linked to coal. Mining played a major role in the lives of almost all families in Saarland, with either a relative or an ancestor having worked in the industry. The fact that coal mining gave our state its own identity is largely thanks to the people who worked in it: the Saarland miners. They laid the foundations for economic development in Saarland and provided momentum for the 'economic miracle' in Germany with their hard work, influencing our state, its values and its cohesion like no other occupational group. The camaraderie and solidarity among miners was the model for the sense of community among people in Saarland. We are now faced with the task of keeping the memories of the mining industry alive. It is important to preserve the knowledge of the mining roots of our state and to pass this knowledge on, especially to young people. The virtual state exhibition DAS ERBE (the heritage) plays a central role in this culture of remembrance. We want this to highlight the special importance of the period characterised by the mining industry for the current and future Saarland society. The DAS ERBE exhibition focuses on miners, their lives, families and culture, their influence on togetherness in Saarland, and on what remains after the end of coal mining, rather than on machinery and mining towers. The exhibition highlights just how rich and varied the heritage of miners is for our state.
I hope that visitors to the "DAS ERBE" exhibition at the Open Gallery of the Google Cultural Institute in the Saarland State Chancellery learn something new about mining in Saarland and are able to gain a better understanding of work underground.

The last shift
Even though final withdrawal from coal mining around the Saar had been prepared by the RAG for a considerable time and every employee, both male and female, had already known for years beforehand that their professional situation would change on 30th June 2012, the finality of the decision only became clear to many on the day of farewell. As the final culminating point of the ceremony on 30th June, the foreman Stefan Busch as the last miner handed over a lump of coal to a member of the board of directors of the RAG. There was hardly a dry eye among the thousand visitors as he ended his short speech with the words: „coal mining around the Saar is over. Good luck“.

Unter dem Glassturz liegt die letzte geförderte Kohle des Saarbergbaus vom 30. Juni 2012.

Eternities
According to information from the RAG, some 1.5 billion tons of coal were extracted during the 250 years of mining on the Saarland coalfields. In the process, cavities resulting collapsed and resulted in subsidence in many places. Damaged or destroyed buildings and likewise changes in the landscape are possible consequences. The soils contaminated by coking plants represent another impairment. In order to meet these challenges, the RAG foundation was created, which in addition to dealing with permanent subsidence and the „eternally“ necessary dewatering, also ensures among other aspects rehabilitation of large areas and retirement provision for miners.
Landscape
The growth of the coal and steel industry during the 19th century transformed the face of the landscape of the Saarland. Extensive open-cast mines often exceeded the adjacent settlements in size, settling ponds and slag heaps shaped the environment. Since the 1960‘s programmes for redevelopment and recultivation of mining areas have emerged, increasingly developed according to ecological standpoints. Between 1960 and 1980, around 850 hectares of new wooded lands were planted based on a recultivation plan of Saarbergwerke AG. This impressive change in the countryside will be clearly visible within a few years by comparison of old and new aerial photographs of Saarland mine locations.

These aerial photographies of the last 60 years document the changes to the Heinitz and Reden mining sites. While both locations were still heavily influenced by coal mining during the 1950s, the environments both changed very differently after the closing of both mines (Heinitz: 1962, Reden: 2000). The newest photos from 2012 show that there is practically no trace of the old usage of the Heinitz location. In contrast, the premises of the former Reden mine have been developed for tourism purposes and thereby preserved for future generations.

These aerial photographies of the last 60 years document the changes to the Heinitz and Reden mining sites. While both locations were still heavily influenced by coal mining during the 1950s, the environments both changed very differently after the closing of both mines (Heinitz: 1962, Reden: 2000). The newest photos from 2012 show that there is practically no trace of the old usage of the Heinitz location. In contrast, the premises of the former Reden mine have been developed for tourism purposes and thereby preserved for future generations.

Staatskanzlei des Saarlandes, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Credits: All media
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