End near for German underground coalmines

30th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 January 2007, Hamburg (dpa) - The end is near for Germany's eight remaining underground coalmines after pro-labour Social Democrats in Germany's ruling coalition agreed, with some caveats, to end state subsidies to the industry in 2018. Most of Germany's hard coal is more than 1,000 metres under the surface, making it more expensive to extract than opencast-mined coal in Australia and other nations. Germany will continue strip-mining its lignite, or brown coal, which is just under the topsoil. Deep mini

30 January 2007

Hamburg (dpa) - The end is near for Germany's eight remaining underground coalmines after pro-labour Social Democrats in Germany's ruling coalition agreed, with some caveats, to end state subsidies to the industry in 2018.

Most of Germany's hard coal is more than 1,000 metres under the surface, making it more expensive to extract than opencast-mined coal in Australia and other nations. Germany will continue strip-mining its lignite, or brown coal, which is just under the topsoil.

Deep mining currently employs 33,000 people, but is only a pale shadow of the industry that fed German steelmills and power stations during two world wars and the post-war German economic miracle.

At their peak in 1957, nearly 150 pits produced 150 million tons of hard coal annually, employing 607,000 people, according to the German Hard Coal Mining Federation. Last year's output was just 22 million tons.

"When you love your job, it makes you quite sad," one miner told Germany's NTV television channel as he arrived for work Tuesday after the agreement "in principle" was announced.

Pro-business politicians have regularly appealed down the years for Germany to follow Britain's lead in the 1980s in ending deep mining, but the Social Democrats, closely allied to miners' unions, resisted.

Critics pointed out that each job was costing the taxpayer 75,000 euros annually to preserve, far more than a miner earns.

The German federal government and the state governments of North Rhine Westphalia and Saarland, the only two states with pits, are currently spending 2.5 billion euros annually to keep the uneconomic pits open.

The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Kurt Beck, said early Tuesday there would be no dismissals on profitability grounds, with miners able to work until they find new work or qualify for pensions.

Among caveats imposed on the arrangement is that the loss of energy production must be reviewed in 2012 by the German parliament. More details are to be negotiated on Wednesday on the way to a complete deal.

IGBCE, the trade union representing miners, and RAG, the company that owns the mines have reluctantly agreed to the end of subsidies. Even when the mines are closed, work will remain ensuring that the underground workings and the slag heaps do not collapse.

DPA

Subject: German news

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