Sat, Dec 22, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Germany closes one of its last two black coal mines


Germany yesterday closed one of its last two black coal mines, ending an industry that laid the foundations for the country’s industrial revolution and its post-World War II economic recovery.

Miners planned to hand German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier a symbolic last lump of coal hauled up from 1,200m below ground at the Prosper-Haniel mine in the western city of Bottrop. Another mine, in the town of Ibbenbueren about 100km to the north, is to be formally closed next week.

Black coal mines once dominated the surrounding Ruhr region, employing up to 500,000 people at their peak in the 1950s, but have since been in steady decline, surviving only thanks to government subsidies.

The end of those deep-shaft mines is seen as a test for the planned closure of open-cast lignite, or brown coal, mines still operating in Germany.

The country generates almost two-fifths of its electricity from burning coal, which experts say cannot continue if Germany wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international climate change agreements.

However, other sources of energy might not be sufficient, especially as Germany plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022.

A government-appointed panel is to deliver a report in February laying out proposals for the gradual phasing out of lignite mines.

Politicians, environmentalists and miners’ union representatives are to propose ways in which tens of thousands of people whose jobs still depend on the coal industry can find new work.

One of the panel’s members said the hundreds of billions in subsidies paid to prop up black coal in Germany were a cautionary tale.

“This time we cannot do it incrementally, in a piecemeal way,” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told reporters.

With about 420 coal mining regions around the globe facing similar pressure to shut down in the next few years, Schellnhuber said Germany could become a pioneer in the transition away from fossil fuels.

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