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Yesterday a coal mine, today a bathing lake – the incredible transformation of the Ruhr area


The structural change in the Ruhr area describes the gradual change from a mining and industrial region to a service region. Coal and steel determined the history of the region and its inhabitants for decades, it became the heavy industrial center of Germany.

In fact, the approximately 200-year era of German hard coal mining only ended a few years ago: On December 21, 2018, the last piece of coal was brought to light at the Franz Haniel mine in Bottrop.

But the end of mining had been in the offing for some time: in 1955, the number of employees in hard coal mining was still around 480,000, and since then it has steadily fallen to 3,371 in the last year of its existence.

The change can best be described using pictures. On the following photo sliders you can get an impression of how much the Ruhr area has changed as a result of structural change:

The “greening” of the Ruhr metropolitan region can also be documented with tangible figures. The industrial city of Essen, shaped by the Krupp family who had lived here since the 16th century, had factories that in the 19th century exceeded the area of ​​the old town tenfold. The railway network also grew and grew – becoming one of the densest in the entire Ruhr area.

In the midst of structural change, in 1978, Essen only had 709 hectares of areas designated as “recreational areas”. The city includes all undeveloped areas that are used for sports and recreation, from green areas and allotments to zoological gardens or game reserves. In 2015, Essen already had 2,352 hectares of recreational space. All cities that were once mined show such a significant change.