The current situation of the German coal industry is the result of a continuous adaptation process which started with the founding of the Ruhrkohle AG – a merger of 51 Ruhr area mines – in 1969.
Internationally, hard coal is mined both in underground and open-cast mines. In Europe, coal is mined almost exclusively underground and that was the case in Germany until the end of 2018. Coal was mined underground in Germany down to a depth of up to 1400 m, exclusively using the “longwall mining” tech- nique. Longwall mining involves removing the coal along a coal face up to 450 m long with a coal plough or cutting it with a longwall shearer between two extraction lines. Several thousand tonnes of coal can be mined from a longwall every day. Today this method is widely used, with around 50% of hard coal production worldwide being mined using this method. The most important German deposits were in North Rhine- Westphalia in the Aachen coalfield, the Ruhr and the Saarland. In addition to these, there are a large number of smaller hard coal mining areas in Germany.