Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen Germany

Consolidation of the mining claim area was completed in December 1847: the area concerned covered 13.2km2. At that time it was the northernmost mine in the region. It belongs to the Gelsenkirchen anticline, in which the coal seams, averaging 1.17m thick, are deeply stratified. Mining began in the mid-19th century at a depth of c 120m and finished at the fourteenth level (1200m). By the end of mining the underground roadways extended over 120km; they were accessed by twelve shafts, opened up progressively between 1847 and 1932. When Zollverein XII was opened, the earlier shafts were used solely for the movement of men and supplies; all the extracted coal was handled by the new shaft until the mine closed in 1986. The methods of mining evolved as technology developed from hand picks to mechanized coal cutting.t

Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen
Continent: Europe
Country: Germany
Category: Cultural
Criterion: (II)(III)
Date of Inscription: 2001

Zollverein Coal Mine

The coals being extracted at Zollverein were especially suitable for coking. Consequently, the first stack-type cokeovens were built there in 1857. The coking plant expanded considerably over the decades that followed. However, when the Zollverein mine was taken over by the steel company, Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, in 1926, a new coking plant (the Nordstern plant) was built to process all the coal from its pits in the region. Coke production returned to Zollverein in the late 1950s, when the then holding company for the mines in the region, Gelsenkirchen Bergwerks AG, decided to build a new coking plant to supplement the Nordstern plant. It began production in 1961 from eight batteries, each of 24 ovens, producing 8600t per day; there were also facilities for processing by-products such as tar, sulphuric acid, benzene, ammonium compounds, and gas. This plant closed down in 1993 because of the fall in the demand for coke.

The construction of the stretch of the Cologne-Minden railway between Oberhausen and Hamm in 1847 was decisive for the location of the early Zollverein shafts, which were sunk 500m from the new line so as to facilitate transport of the coal and coke produced. The first passenger station did not open until forty years later. There were also links with the Emscher Valley line, also opened in 1847, which cut the north-western corner of the Zollverein concession. There followed a series of internal link lines during the next eighty years. It was connected with that of the neighbouring Bonifacius mine after Zollverein was taken over by Vereinigte Stahlwerke in 1926.

Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen Germany
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen Germany

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Coal mining produces enormous quantities of waste material, which is deposited in the characteristic pit heaps. The earliest of these, to the east of shaft 1/2, was planted with trees in 1895 and used as a recreational area for the mine officials. A second grew to the west of shaft 1/2 from that time, and in 1932 was used for pond management, to dry out the boiler-ash and coal slurries from Zollverein XII. A heap begun in 1880 was partially cleared in 1958 to provide land for miners' housing. Other heaps were used for filling areas where coal had been removed from a steeply dipping seam and on an abandoned airfield.

Intensive mining resulted in a number of subsidences, in some places as deep as 25m. This necessitated clearance of irretrievably damaged housing and other facilities. Subsidence exacerbated the water problems in the so-called Emscher Zone, where mining adversely affected the gravitational flow and created large areas of swamp. Local industries and municipalities created the Emscher Association, which carried out a number of projects using pumping stations and creating polders.

The workforce steadily increased to c 5000 by the end of the 19th century. During the 20th century it fluctuated between 5000 and 8000. Because there were no alternative property developers when work began in 1847, Zollverein began to construct housing for its workers. Building projects were integrated with the mine operating programmes.

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Large building sites were purchased and by 1860 146 flats were ready for occupancy; at that time the mine employed 710 workers. This "Hegemannshof Colony" expanded steadily (by the turn of the century it covered around 90ha), and subsequently two more colonies, "Ottekampshof" and "Beisen," were added. By World War I the property owned by the mine had grown to over 720ha. However, this was by no means adequate for a workforce that numbered some 5000 at that time. Between the two World Wars new workers' housing developed, notably the housing estate built by the Trust Agency for Miners' Housing. In the late 1920s the mine could provide each of its salaried employees and officials with an apartment, but only some 3000 were available for the 8000 workers.

After World War II new estates consisting of apartment blocks were built by the housing association established by Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG, such as the Kaldekirche, Westerbruch, and Kapitlacker estates from the 1950s. The Gl├╝ckauf estate was built by the miners themselves working in collaboration. The houses were owned by private individuals. Two Pestalozzi villages were also built for apprentices. In 1958 there were 7061 dwellings available for a workforce of 8000.

From the start the mine provided consumer services for its employees, selling food and manufactured goods at low prices. They began on a "cooperative" basis, profits being returned to consumers in the form of an annual dividend. This scheme, with its six outlets, was taken over as a company enterprise by Vereinigte Stahlwerke. The system gradually declined after World War II because of competition from commercial stores, and the remaining outlets were bought out in the 1970s.

From the mid-1920s the mine provided welfare services for its employees. The first welfare centre was set up in 1928 (it was rehoused in 1938) and the second in 1934. A large modern welfare centre designed by Fritz Schupp was built in 1953. However, Zollverein closed its welfare facilities in the early 1960s, in line with the current trend in the Ruhr.

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