December 21, 2018 Read More →

Germany closes last underground coal mines

Associated Press:

Germany is closing its last black coal mines, ending an industry that laid the foundations for the country’s industrial revolution and its post-war economic recovery.

On Friday, miners planned to hand German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier a symbolic last lump of coal hauled up from 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) below ground at the Prosper-Haniel mine in the western city of Bottrop. Along with another mine, in the town of Ibbenbueren about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the north, it will be formally shuttered at the end of the year.

Black coal mines once dominated the Ruhr region surrounding Bottrop, employing up to half a million people at their peak in the 1950s. But they have since been in steady decline, surviving only thanks to generous subsidies.

The region has received more than 40 billion euros ($46 billion) in federal funds since 1998 and is slated to get another 2.7 billion euros through 2022, in part to deal with mine maintenance and environmental cleanup efforts. The figures don’t include money spent supporting economic redevelopment in the Ruhr region, which has seen a growth in universities, research facilities and IT start-ups in recent years.

The end of the 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, a situation that scientists say can’t continue if Germany wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international efforts to curb climate change. But some fear that other sources of energy — chiefly renewables — may not be sufficient, especially as Germany plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022.

More: Germany closes last of black coal mines that shaped country

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