The recovery and decline of mining in the Federal Republic of Germany

The recovery and decline of mining in the Federal Republic of Germany

A sub-project of the handbook on the history of German mining

Industrialization in the 19th century, the production of armaments in both world wars, and the rebuilding of Germany were all based on coal as a raw material. The coal and steel crisis at the end of the 1950s and in the mid-1970s put an end to the economic miracle, particularly that of the Ruhr coal-mining industry. Since then, numerous mines have ceased operations, and corporate structures have changed. 2018, finally, spells the end of the coal-mining industry. The aim of this sub-project is to produce a historical/critical overview of the history of mining in the period of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Occasionally, in the light of recent exorbitant increases in the price of coke and steel, there is talk of building a new mine in the Ruhr. Such talk tends to astonish people, who have been accustomed to hearing, for decades, that the German coal-mining industry is in the throes of a structural crisis. Coal was of central importance for industrialization in the 19th century, coal mining was a vital prerequisite for the production of armaments in both world wars, and the rebuilding of Germany was also based on relatively prompt restructuring of the industry. Yet at the end of the 1950s the Ruhr coal-mining industry in particularly was already sliding into a crisis, one which would end the so-called German economic miracle, and which continues even today. In the 1960s numerous pits were closed and companies were restructured, culminating in the founding of Ruhrkohle AG as a unified company in 1969.
The structural crisis of the German coal-mining industry continued despite the founding of Ruhrkohle AG, as the following figures show: in 1971 the output was around 110 million tonnes, and in 1973 it fell below 100 million tonnes for the first time. In 1978 it reached its lowest level so far, 83.9 million tonnes. Short-term improvements in sales and revenue immediately after the oil crisis in the winter of 1973/74, and a steel boom in the mid-1970s, did nothing to change this. Nor did the German coal-mining industry stabilize during the 1980s and 1990s, instead these decades were characterized by coal negotiations (“Kohlerunden”) and adaptation strategies. The answer – until the turn of the millennium – was to concentrate mining in productive large-scale mines equipped with the latest technology, in order to cope with the downsizing process which politicians and public authorities were demanding more and more forcefully. On the basis of the 2007 Steinkohlefinanzierungsgesetz (German Hard Coal Financing Act), the German coal-mining industry can be expected to shut down permanently by 2018.
The aim of the sub-project is to develop a historical/critical overview of the history of mining in the period of the Federal Republic of Germany. The coal-mining industry is the main focus, but other sections of the mining industry will also be taken into account as appropriate.


Duration

2013 - 2014

 

Publications

  • Farrenkopf, M.u. a. (Hrsg.), 2009. Glück auf! Ruhrgebiet – Der Steinkohlenbergbau nach 1945. Ausstellungskatalog, Deutsches Bergbau-Museums Bochum
  • Farrenkopf, M., 2009. Wirtschaftswunder und erste Kohlenkrisen. In: Kumpel und Kohle. Der Landtag NRW und die Ruhrkohle 1946 bis 2008. Schriften des Landtags NRW 19, 49-95.
  • Farrenkopf, M., 2010. Aufkommen und Bewältigung der Bergbau-Strukturkrise im Zeichen der Ruhrkohle AG. Heimat Dortmund. Ztschr. Histor. Verein für Dortmund und die Grafschaft Mark. In Verbindung mit dem Stadtarchiv Dortmund 1-2, 27-34.