History of the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse

History of the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse

The Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK)and the DMT-Gesellschaft für Lehre und Bildung mbH

The Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK, Westphalian Miners’ Union Fund) came into being in 1864. Its functions included improving miners’ training and promoting research. The foundations of its teaching and research activities were laid with the takeover of the Bochumer Bergschule (Bochum School of Mining) and the geomagnetic station. In the course of adjustments to capacity and restructuring, the WBK was merged into the newly created DMT DeutscheMontanTechnologie für Rohstoff, Energie, Umwelt (German Mining Technology for Raw Material, Energy, Environment). Together with the TFH Georg Agricola in Bochum and the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum, the DMT carries on the traditions of the WBK in training and teaching. Next year, to mark the 150th anniversary of the WBK, the history of this important institution will be examined within the framework of cooperative mining history, and with regard to recent lines of research in mining history.

A merger between two regional unions, the Märkische Gewerkschaftskasse (founded in 1737) and the Essen-Werdensche Gewerkschaftskasse (founded in 1803), created the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK) in 1864. Since its foundation, it saw its function as being to improve miners’ training and to promote research, with one of the main aims being to raise safety levels in mining. The takeover of the Bochum school of mining and of the geomagnetic station founded by the Bochum mining authority laid the foundations for the WBK’s teaching and research activities. Over the following decades, many new scientific testing and research departments were established within the WBK; the school was also expanded. The increasing importance and the good reputation of the WBK were evident from the participation of WBK staff members or departments in government or university research and development projects. The WBK became more and more firmly established as a link between the state, the universities, the mines, and the mining subcontractors. It also came to play an important consulting role for the mines, which were increasingly setting up their own testing facilities and laboratories.
The steady contraction of the German coal-mining industry since the end of the 1960s made it increasingly obvious from the 1980s onwards that capacity adjustments and restructuring would also be unavoidable in the highly specialized field of cooperative institutional research. On 1 January 1990 the three mainstays of cooperative research so far, i.e. the Steinkohlenbergbauverein, represented by Bergbau-Forschung GmbH, the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK) and the Versuchsgrubengesellschaft mbH were therefore merged into the newly created DMT DeutscheMontanTechnologie für Rohstoff, Energie, Umwelt. With around 2000 members of staff, the new company was one of the biggest technological/scientific organizations in the world. The idea was that the concentration of work capacity and available know-how would ensure more than just better marketing of research findings.
Since the predecessor organizations had not only carried out research and testing activities, but also training and schooling, these main features were reflected in the structure of the DMT. Under the umbrella of a registered association (eingetragener Verein) – DMT DeutscheMontanTechnologie für Rohstoff, Energie, Umwelt e. V. – two organizations were founded: on the one hand, the DMT-Gesellschaft für Forschung und Prüfung mbH (Organization for Research and Testing), and on the other hand the DMT-Gesellschaft für Lehre und Bildung mbH (DMT-LB, Organization for Teaching and Training). The latter brings together all the facilities for training and professional development. In 1990, this included the Bergberufsschulen (vocational schools of mining) and Fachoberschulen (vocationally oriented upper secondary schools), a Bergfachschule (technical college of mining) and the only mining-oriented Fachhochschule (university of applied sciences) in Germany – the present-day TFH Georg Agricola in Bochum. Together with the municipality of Bochum, the DMT-LB also operated the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum (DBM). As a member of the present-day Leibniz Association, the museum’s own research activities in the non-university sector have received additional funding from the German federal government and the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia since the 1970s. As a result of ongoing restructuring in the German coal-mining industry, the DMT-LB now comprises only the TFH Georg Agricola and the DBM. In 2014, the DMT-LB – in continuing the traditions of the WBK – will be able to look back on 150 years of history.

Project manager

Dr. Michael Farrenkopf

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum






Deutsches Bergbaumuseum


2012 - 2016