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Thread started 15 Sep 2020 (Tuesday) 08:31
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brown coal mine RWE Elsdorf/ Hambach (DE)

Senior Member
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Gallery: 334 photos
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Joined Sep 2017
Location: Netherlands, Utrecht
Sep 15, 2020 08:31 |  #1

Last week I went to the gigantic lignite mine of the RWE near Hambach/ Elsdorf. This is really an incredibly big mine. This is very worthwhile to take a look!

First just a few facts:

The surface area is about 4,000 hectares (with growth potential of up to 8,500 hectares). Layers of soil are dug up there to eventually dig up a 400 meter (!!) underneath the surface lignite, which is used to fire the adjacent power plant. The machines used for digging are electrically operated and consume 1/3rd of the energy generated. At this moment, the sand that is dug out on one side is transported to the other side of the excavation by means of huge kilometers long conveyor belts, where it is rebuilt layer by layer. In this way the mine "eats its way" through the landscape. Entire villages have been demolished in front of it (and rebuilt behind the mine, the highway A61 has been completely diverted in front of it: it is bizarre what it may cost. Here (external link) you can read more about this mine. Eventually a gigantic lake has to be built (about 4,000 acres), but whether that is feasible is questionable.

We started at the vantage point near Hambach (external link). Unfortunately it was very gray, it was raining and so it was hard to photograph. Nevertheless it was good to see how immense this mine is. Take a look at picture 1 and 2, remember that the mining machines you see there are about 100 meters high and 200 meters long, and look at the cars you can see all the way down there (on picture 1 in the middle below and on picture 2 on the left below).


IMAGE LINK:​rbE  (external link) IMG_1355A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​mSi  (external link) IMG_1357A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​qjV  (external link) IMG_1379A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​o8z  (external link) IMG_1383A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr

Because we couldn't see much more at this viewpoint, we drove on and searched the dirt roads. This way we hoped to get a little closer to the machines. We did, at one point we parked the car and went through the high grass, thinking we would see a fence again.

To our great surprise, we were suddenly on the edge of the excavation... and we could see the gigantic machine at work from very close range. So I was able to take a series of photos of it, and we flew around with the drone. It was a really cool experience to see those giant machines at work. For your information: if you look at the paddle wheel, there are 18 "shovels" hanging on it, each taking 4.5 tons at a time. So that's 81 tons per spin - and that thing spins non-stop :D

On the way back to the car, very impressive men suddenly came at us from several sides. It looked as if we were being chased by a squad... Those men weren't happy, to put it mildly, because it turned out that we were (of course) trespassing on forbidden territory. We did not really enter into the discussion that this was not clearly indicated on the road we were following (afterwards only the barrier standing up appeared to be the marking); they were not in the mood for it, to put it mildly... it appears that there are regular protests by environmentalists. With hindsight this turns out to be true, just take a look here (external link) That is why the ground is full of sensors and an alarm goes off as soon as someone enters forbidden territory. If we had gotten too close (or better: if they had seen how close we were...), they would have stopped the work and recovered the damage from us. Lucky us...

Well, we had to erase all the pictures (I did that well, of course... :mrgreen: ) and then we were allowed to leave again, after having legitimized ourselves. Pfff... that was once, but never again. If you go there: do not go into roads with a barrier, even if it is open :D

Below some more pictures, take a good look at the proportions of the mining machine compared to the bulldozer (and that wasn't a small one...). Really unimaginably large.


IMAGE LINK:​Xk2  (external link) IMG_1409A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​haN  (external link) IMG_1412A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​VGT  (external link) IMG_1435A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr


IMAGE LINK:​gRb  (external link) IMG_1447A-BorderMaker (external link) by marcoeoscanon (external link), on Flickr

Finally some moving image:



Sorry, long story: but it's really worth it to drive by!

"To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge."
flickr (external link)

Terry ­ McDaniel
2,121 posts
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Joined Sep 2014
Location: Lebanon, OK
Sep 15, 2020 09:49 |  #2

Great series, I enjoyed the photos and the story.

"The .44 spoke,
It spit lead and smoke,
And 17 inches of flame."
Marty Robbins

my very own Lightrules moment
20,026 posts
Gallery: 66 photos
Likes: 5530
Joined Mar 2009
Location: Issaquah, WA USA
Sep 15, 2020 10:50 |  #3

Interesting read; I do detest the mining itself, but those machines are simply, engineering *marvels*. The sheer scale of them is astonishing and I'm glad you were able to include closer shot of them to show it off.

- Eric S.: My Birds/Wildlife (external link) (R5, RF 800 f/11, Canon 16-35 F/4 MkII, Canon 24-105L f/4 IS, Canon 70-200L f/2.8 IS MkII, Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS I/II)
"The easiest way to improve your photos is to adjust the loose nut between the shutter release and the ground."

Senior Member
293 posts
Gallery: 47 photos
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Joined Dec 2006
Location: UK, Bedford
Sep 15, 2020 17:30 |  #4

Fascinating read and photos. It looks like something out of a sci-if movie!

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brown coal mine RWE Elsdorf/ Hambach (DE)
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