Business history of the Walsum mine

The Walsum mine was a relatively young mine which did not expand to any great extent until after the Second World War. The history of this coal mine began much earlier, however. Right from the beginning of his involvement in mining, the industrialist August Thyssen kept buying more and more mining claims on the right bank of the Rhine in the Hamborn area. As early as 1904, Thyssen submitted an operating plan for the mining claim which would later become the Walsum mine. Despite preliminary work, however, there were repeated delays lasting several years.

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 It was not until 1926 that efforts to exploit the claim were resumed by Thyssen’s heirs. To do so they established a capital company (Gewerkschaft) under mining law, the “Bergwerksgesellschaft Walsum”, which was taken over completely by the Thyssensche Gas- und Wasserwerke GmbH in 1927. Regular extraction began in 1936, but could only be maintained during the war years with the use of foreign and forced labour, and had to be abandoned briefly in 1945 due to war damage.
In the post-war years work began to expand the mine into a modern amalgamated mine, as planned since the 1930s; the general director at the time, Wilhelm Roelen, had a major influence on its planning. Roelen’s plans were not implemented to the extent originally planned, however. As part of the process of decartelization, the mining company was turned into an independent GmbH (limited liability company) in 1953. By the beginning of the 1960s the number of employees had risen (briefly) to nearly 8000. In 1963 the GmbH became an Aktiengesellschaft (public limited company), with a majority of its shares going to Dutch companies from the Thyssen-Bornemisza complex. In 1969 Steinkohlen-Elektrizität AG (Steag) became the new sole owner, and, in the same year, incorporated the company into the newly founded Ruhrkohle AG, the Einheitsgesellschaft (united company) for the Ruhr coal-mining industry.
In the recent past, the Walsum mine faced increasingly strong criticism from the population and politicians over its extraction of coal below and immediately beside the Rhine. The massive objections contributed to the decision by RAG Deutsche Steinkohle AG not to continue to excavate two faces under the Rhine and the Rhine embankments. The closure of the mine, initially planned for 2009, was also brought forward by a few months.
The aim of the project is to publish a scholarly monograph which also has audience appeal. This will be achieved by integrating the mine’s history into the general context of economic and social history, and by embracing a modern understanding of economic history, which takes into account aspects of corporate culture and new institutional economics. In conjunction with the writing of the monograph, further files from the registry of the Walsum mine were transferred into the holdings of the Montanhistorisches Dokumentationszentrum (montan.dok)/Bergbau-Archiv Bochum (holding no. BBA 38).
An important contribution to the production of the publication is being made by former managers of the Walsum mine, who have come together in a working group, under the guidance of montan.dok, and are providing support and advice for the project.


Christian Böse

Project manager

Dr. Michael Farrenkopf

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum



2009 - 2011