Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hambach Lignite Mine

On excursion I visited the Hambach opencast mine is the largest mine operated by RWE Power AG (formerly Rheinbraun AG) for the extraction of "brown coal" or lignite. This is the lowest grade and dirtiest type of coal.

It's about 5km by 4.5km, and around 350m depth. It is the lowest point in Europe at 293 meter below sea level. Next to the mine is the Sophienhöhe, the largest artificial hill in the world composed of excavated material.

It was a hazy day, but still one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. I've tried to reduce the haze in the pictures. Before haze removal:

After haze removal. You can see a man for scale (next to the car) if you look at the full size:

The machines on this side of the mine are only dumping the material from the other side of the mine, that is the ~250m of useless soil that is on top of the coal. It gets transported by conveyor belts from the place where it is eaten by the Baggers:

Basically the whole mine pit slowly moves through the landscape as one side is dug and the other dumped.

Words and pictures cannot describe the vastness of this place.

The Hambach mine is part of the Rhenish (Rhineland) lignite-mining region that covers an area of some 2,500km². Three other mines operate in the area, the Garzweiler, Inden and Bergheim. Together producing about 100Mt/y of coal. Almost all coal is used for power generation, generating 10289MW. So all this could be replaced by about 10 nuclear power plants.

More information on the mining at RWE Rhineland.


pimp-a-lot bear said...

nice pictures! Did you also go into the pit?
I'll post my own pictures on monday

annom said...

Wow, massive. Do they need to care about water in the pit?
I remember pimp talking about this mine, but he always promises pics but never posts any.

annom said...

How was the rest of your excursion?

cybrbeast said...

Yeah the water issue is actually the reason we went to the mine. They have to pump a huge amount out of the pit. This causes all the groundwater in the are to lower and flow towards the pit. They have to very carefully let the water they pump out re-infiltrate in places near the mine otherwise ecosystems and farmers suffer.

Rest of the excursion was very nice. Saw cool things and had a very nice group of students. Drinking every night :)