Germany today closed a page of its industrial history with the closure of the Bochum mine, the last one still operating in the Ruhr basin (west), a region that for centuries exploited its so-called "black gold", coal.
"Finished a chapter of our history," said the Prime Minister of the "Land" of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, in a message to his fellow citizens, hours before what will be, this Friday, the last descent into the well of miners.
The farewell to coal was sentenced by the federal government in 2007 for environmental reasons and has been progressively implemented; Almost 13% of the country's energy consumption still depends on this source, only it is imported instead of being extracted in the Ruhr basin or other regions of the eastern part of the country.
"Our people, our region, owe a lot to coal, owes him hundreds of thousands of jobs, welfare and a source of energy that has made our country strong," Laschet continued in his message.
The coal is a "success story", according to the head of government of that "Land" of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who yesterday had participated in a religious ceremony with his predecessor in office, the Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft, and surrounded by miners, some of them on the verge of tears.
North Rhine-Westphalia, with almost 18 million inhabitants, exploited this source of energy for more than two centuries.
In the 1950s, some 600,000 residents of the Ruhr area worked in the mine, a labor force that was reduced until, in 2007, some 33,000 miners, while now remaining active the last 3,500.
There were no layoffs, but formulas for early retirement and relocations, but the entire region has suffered from the closure of coal wells, which has also coincided with the dismantling of part of its steel industry.
Currently unemployment in the Ruhr area stands at 10.4% – the country's average is at 4.8% – while cities like Bochum or the neighboring Oberhausen and Duisburg are among the most indebted in the country.
Before even sealing the federal government – according to the Rhenish authorities and the industry of the sector – the abandonment of coal had already been dismantled many large farms ..
In the last decades German mining has subsisted thanks to state subsidies and it is estimated that since 1996 61,000 million euros were allocated to aid to coal.
For environmental organizations, the closure of the wells is too late and the damage caused by this delay is incalculable, to which there are still active open-pit operations, also in the Rhineland, which are even more damaging to the environment.
To this is added the "generational" income that the closure will leave, since throughout the region the pumping of the water that accumulates in its perforated subsoil will continue to be required, a task that was assumed by the mining exploiting consortiums and that in the future will remain for public administration and private owners.
The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will receive this Friday the last piece extracted by the last shift of the miners of Bochum, in a ceremony with strong emotional charge.
Outside of this great institutional act, the closure of the last well will be very present in these festivities throughout the region.
Santa Bárbara, the patron saint of the miners, is consecrated many churches of the region, which illustrates the degree of connection, not only economic, but also emotional of the population with the sector.