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  •  Miners and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pose with the symbolic last piece of stone coal in Bottrop, Germany, Dec. 21, 2018.

    Miners and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pose with the symbolic last piece of stone coal in Bottrop, Germany, Dec. 21, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 December 2018

Germany closed down its last active coal mine and bade farewell to a centuries-old industry which played an important role in the country's economy. 

Germany bid farewell to coal as it closed its last mine Friday, thereby closing a chapter in the history of German industry. Coal was the main engine of growth for the German economy but became obsolete in recent past.

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A service was held to commemorate the end of an era when seven miners climbed through the service lift of the Prosper-Haniel mine for the last time with the final block of “black-gold” which they presented to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Coal mining was a crucial part of German industry since the mid-19th century. Post-World War II, “black gold” was essential in the German economic recovery.

More than 600,000 miners were working in mines during the 1950s. But by 2017, the number of miners decreased to 4,500.  

"It's more than a block of coal, it's a part of history. Without the coal and without those who extracted it, the History of this country would have been very different," Steinmeier said during the ceremony of 500 guests, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

"The coal allowed the industrialization of the region and prosperity throughout Germany," said government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The 150-year-old mines dug by six generations of workers will be sealed and then gradually drowned in water.

However, this closure does not mean Germany will abandon coal. Fossil fuel still accounts for 40 percent of the country’s energy sector.

“In any case, it is a turning point in Germany that the black coal mining industry, which was so characteristic of the industrial revolution in Germany, is now being discontinued,” Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany told Euronews.

“It is not yet a victory for the environment, because hard coal continues to be burned in Germany, which is imported here from countries such as Colombia, Australia or South Africa.”

The government will announce in February their plans for gradually abandoning coal altogether.


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