On Saturday we visited Germany’s formerly largest coal mine, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, and learned about life in the mines from over 135 years of its operation. The region around Essen has been strongly influenced by the many coal mines that surround the area. Influenced in ways like attracting a lot of people for work, changing the landscape, and for polluting the area as well.
The first thing you see upon arrival is the towering elevator structure that was used to hoist coal and miners to and from the depths of the mine. One symbol so prolific about the area that you can find it’s image all across Essen. Seeing the empty tracks and hallways feel as if that was how they had always been even though 100 years prior it had been the world’s most technologically advanced and largest coal and coking plant. Since I didn’t know what coke was before this visit I’ll say that coke is a fuel with a high carbon content that is made from burning coal at high temperatures without air and this is done in order to make it the perfect fuel for smelting iron ore and other metals. This is a pivotal facility that helped turn Germany into a superpower in the early and mid 20th century due to the importance of coke in steel and iron production.
Learning about the working conditions of the workers was horrendous, however. Workers risked an early death from black lung in order to feed their families and suffered under cramped working conditions with temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius.