BERLIN – Germany closed its last coal mine on Friday, putting an end to 250 years of industrial history in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The federal government in 2007 slated the end of the coal mining industry for environmental reasons, a policy which came into force progressively in order to allow enough time to adapt to different energy sources and reallocate workers.
“A chapter of our history has ended,” Armin Laschet, the wealthy region’s minister-president, said at the closing ceremony of the Prosper-Haniel coal mine in Bottrop.
“Our people, our region owe a great deal to coal,” Laschet added. “We owe it hundreds of thousands of jobs, wellbeing and a source of energy that has made our country strong.”
The North Rhine-Westphalia region, with almost 18 million citizens, has exploited the resource for over two centuries.
In the 1950s, some 600,000 locals worked in the mines, a number that has decreased year-on-year since then.
By 2007, 33,000 miners worked the basins.
On Friday, the day the last coal mine closed shop, just 3,500 people were working there.
The miners were not fired but offered early retirement or reallocated to different positions, although there remains a sense of nostalgia in the region as it bids farewell to a significant part of its history.