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Germany closes last black coal mines that shaped country

Germany is closing one of its last two black coal mines Friday, ending an industry that laid the foundations for the country’s industrial revolution and its post-war economic recovery.

Miners planned to hand German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier a symbolic last lump of coal hauled up from 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) below ground at the Prosper-Haniel mine in the western city of Bottrop.

Another mine, in the town of Ibbenbueren about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the north, will formally close by the end of the year.

Black coal mines once dominated the surrounding Ruhr region, employing up to half a million people at their peak in the 1950s, but have since been in steady decline, surviving only thanks to generous government subsidies.

The end of those deep-shaft mines is seen as a test for the planned closure of open-cast lignite, or brown coal, mines still operating in Germany.

But some fear that other sources of energy chiefly renewables may not be sufficient, especially as Germany plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022.

One of the panel’s members said the hundreds of billions in subsidies paid to prop up black coal in Germany were a cautionary tale.

With about 420 coal mining regions around the globe facing similar pressure to shut down in the coming years, Schellnhuber said Germany could become a pioneer in the transition away from fossil fuels.

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