Our tour to Garzweiler together with all geography courses of the EF took place on the 28th of March. Unfortunately, the journey took longer than expected due to heavy traffic, but we could still do the guided tour that was planned.
Our tour guide Gisela, who works for the visitor center of the power concern RWE, guided us through the area.
First of all, we drove to the private train loading station of RWE where the freight trains transport brown coal to one of the three power stations. The loading takes only 15 minutes, and only if coal is requested by the power station, it will get transported. Otherwise, the extracted material is stored inside a coal bunker.
After this, we went alongside the extremely long conveyer belts to the station where the workers park their pick-ups and store their personal items. Nearby this place we could observe a conveyer belt in detail and a bucket wheel of a giant bucket-wheel excavator. In total the lengths of all conveyer belts used in Garzweiler is about 93km long! Then we visited an old bucket-wheel excavator and Gisela gave us some interesting information: It has a length of 171m and a height of 50m with a giant bucket-wheel diameter of 15m. There are even bigger bucket-wheel excavators in use nowadays.
The last stop of the tour was at a skywalk where we had a great view of the whole area of the opencast mine Garzweiler. On our way back, Gisela explained some recultivation and renaturalization measures RWE uses in order to make the depleted areas livable again and to assemble a functioning ecosystem. The overburden creates new landscapes after the depletion of coal is completed: artificial mountains on the edges of the opencast mines, fields and forests as well as artificial lakes. Another interesting experience was a tour through the small town Immerath that is nearly completely gone already because RWE is allowed to extract coal under the town. This leads to severe social conflicts and in many cases, it is emotionally very hard for them to leave. So many inhabitants of towns that are designated for resettlements show big resistance.
I can recommend the trip to Garzweiler to following geography courses – it’s quite impressive to see open-pit mining in real life!
Alexander Schmidt, EF bilingual geography