Coal crisis

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The term coal crisis (colloquially also colliery dying) describes the decline of hard coal mining in Western and Central Europe.


The causes of the coal crisis were and are among others:

  • The Federal Republic of Germany paid the coal mines subsidies until 1957 in order to counteract a feared coal shortage. After the currency reform , an economic miracle had begun in West Germany ; Post-war industry production grew and construction activity was brisk. The subsidies were an incentive for the mines to increase their production . When the amount of coal extracted exceeded the demand, production was temporarily carried out on heaps .
  • After the war, oil was very cheap for decades (until 1973 when the first oil price crisis began). Initially, the Adenauer government imposed a protective tariff on petroleum ; later she got rid of it. The demand for oil increased in households, in the transport sector and in industry; the demand for hard coal fell. The share of coal in the energy market sank between 1950 and 1964 from approx. 87% to 60%; later it sank even further.
  • German hard coal was more expensive than foreign hard coal. There were several reasons for this:
    1. The geological conditions for extracting the coal were not (anymore) optimal. The coal seams are deeper to the north than in the southern Ruhr area. The coal is mined at depths of up to 1000 meters; on the other hand, in other countries, hard coal can sometimes be mined near the surface or in open-cast mining.
    2. West German miners received significantly higher wages than miners in other countries.
    3. Due to falling transport costs as a result of larger bulk carriers and better infrastructure, the extraction costs became the decisive factor for hard coal sales.
  • Due to the increasing share of lignite and nuclear power in energy production, West German hard coal demand fell from the beginning of the 1960s to the end of the 1990s (from 120 million tons to around 70 million tons). Between 1975 and 1989, 17 large nuclear reactors were connected to the power grid in Germany .


Hard coal

The years 1957 and 1958 are generally regarded as the beginning of the coal crisis, when large stocks of coal suddenly accumulated, especially in the Ruhr area - the mines produced more coal than was demanded. There were “party shifts” (shifts were canceled) and later colliery closings.

The Lieselotte colliery near Hattingen closed on January 31, 1959 . The end of the Friedrich Thyssen 4/8 colliery in Duisburg-Hamborn shocked the public. As a result, initially smaller, older and unprofitable pits, especially in the south of the Ruhr area, were closed, later also large pits. A decades-long crisis in the coal and steel industry began , in which mines , blast furnaces and steelworks were closed.

The coal crisis reached its first climax in 1963 when thirteen mines ( Zeche Centrum , Zeche Dorstfeld , Zeche Fröhliche Morgensonne, etc.) were closed and around 10,000 miners lost their jobs. Until 1978 there were almost no mines in former mining towns like Bochum, Essen, Herne or Wattenscheid . In 1968 the mines of the Ruhr area merged to form Ruhrkohle-AG (RAG - today's RAG Aktiengesellschaft ) in order to be able to react more effectively to the crisis. RAG's financial losses are offset by the public purse, the profits and the land remain with the mines.

In the following years there were numerous strikes and vigils by miners who protested against the loss of jobs. So it happened in 1987, for example, to a strike of some 100,000 miners who at the planned closure of two blast furnaces of the Krupp - steel plant in Duisburg-Rheinhausen their work laid down their (fill a Rhine bridge: Bridge of solidarity , temporary blockage of highways). The strikes, human chains and torchlight procession of the next few years did not prevent the closure of further locations of the coal and steel industry, so that the number of mines in the Ruhr area decreased to eleven by 1998 and to six by 2007. At the beginning of 2012, four mines were still in operation in North Rhine-Westphalia: the West mine in Kamp-Lintfort was shut down at the end of 2012 and the Auguste Victoria in Marl was shut down at the end of 2015, the Ibbenbüren and Prosper-Haniel mines in Bottrop followed in 2018. In the Aachen area , the last mine closed in 1997, the last mine in the Saar area , the Saar mine , stopped mining on June 30, 2012.



  • Academy for spatial research and regional planning (ed.): German planning atlas. Volume 1: Herbert Reiners (Red.): North Rhine-Westphalia , Delivery 21: Hard coal. Coal industry in the Ruhr area and in the Aachen hard coal district, ownership structure, colliery workforce and structural change. Vincentz, Hannover 1979, ISBN 3-507-91432-8 .
  • Wilhelm Hermann, Gertrude Hermann: The old mines on the Ruhr. Past and future of a key technology. With a catalog of the "life stories" of 477 mines (series Die Blauen Bücher ). Verlag Langewiesche Nachhaben, Königstein im Taunus, 6th, 2008 edition expanded to include an excursus from p. 216 and updated in energy policy parts, ISBN 978-3-7845-6994-9 , pp. 95-101.
  • Hans Ulrich Lücke (among others): Theses on the hard coal industry. Development and tendencies. Ruhr Area Municipal Association, Essen 1983, ISBN 3-9234-9441-6 .
  • Meinhard Miegel : Change of course in coal policy? Conclusion from a discussion. Verlag Bonn Aktuell, Bonn 1986, ISBN 3-8795-9268-3 .
  • Christoph Nonn: The Ruhr mining crisis. De-industrialization and politics 1958–1969 , Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2001, ISBN 978-3-525-35164-2
  • WAZ Chronicle of the Ruhr Area , Harenberg, Essen 1987
  • European Parliament (Directorate-General for Science): Coal and the internal market for energy. September 1991, series 'Energy and Research No. 11', ISBN 92-823-0301-2 (see : Link to pdf (140 pages))
  • European Commission / Eurostat: Coal 2005–2006
  • European Commission / Eurostat: Coal mining in the European Union in 2004 and 2005
  • European Commission / Eurostat: Coal mining in the European Union in 2002 (coal production decreased by 8%)
  • List of other EU publications on coal, oil and gas: 239 List of publications

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