THE ABANDONED MINE IN GERMANY
‘Zeche Westerholt‘ was the last active coal mine in Gelsenkirchen. It was built in 1908 and became later part of Bergwerk Lippe. The huge mine site was abandoned in 2008.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Prussian state needed large quantities of coal for the nationalized railroad and also for the imperial navy. From 1903 the state-owned company Bergwerks-AG Recklinghausen was founded. One of the mines that were built was the Westerholt colliery.
The mine went into operation in 1910 and was equipped with two head frames. Shaft 1 was ready in 2008, shaft 2 in 2010. In 1912 a coking plant was put into operation. In 1927 the Westerholt colliery became the property of Hibernia AG. The coking plant was expanded in 1929, it was used for the coking of the Westerholt and Bergmannsglück coal.
Westerholt suffered serious damage during the Second World War. The head frame above shaft 2 was the only one in the Ruhr area that was destroyed in a bomb attack. In the 1950s, the colliery was given a new central production shaft. Also, after the Second World War, the Polsum mine was connected to the Westerholt mine. This shaft went into operation in 1949. In 1956 the construction of a new production shaft ‘Westerholt 3’ began on the old coke plant site. The coke plant moved to Hassel, further west, in 1953.
In 1998 the Westerholt mine was taken over by ‘DSK’ or ‘Deutsche Steinkohle AG’. Westerholt merged with the Fürst Leopold mine in Dorsten to form ‘Bergwerk Lippe’. Also, the shafts in Polsum and Altendorf became part of the Lippe mine. Shaft 1 was rebuilt and received a new tower conveyor system in 2001. This made it easier and faster to move large pieces of equipment underground. Despite these investments, the mine was closed earlier than planned. The existing coal stocks could have provided coal until 2020.
The Westerholt 2 shaft was abandoned and backfilled in 1999, the head frame was demolished. On December 19, 2008, the other shafts and therefore ‘Zeche Westerholt’ were shut down when the last wagon of coal was brought into the daylight. Numerous buildings have been preserved from the time of its founding, which together with more recent buildings reflect almost a century of mining architecture. I visited the mine in 2019.