Open-Cast Mine Hambach
Lignite (often referred to as brown coal or soft coal) is a soft brown fuel which geneses from plants naturally. Today mined coal is primarily originated in tertiary. About 30 million years ago the earth in the lower rhine bay area with rivers rhine, urft, erft, sieg and maas sag down. The north sea flooded into the area and generated a swamp. The climate was subtropical so it was more humid and significantly warmer than today. The vegetation could not be decomposed because it was hermetically sealed from air and so it became turf. During the years, while the atlantic ocean advanced south towards the Eifel, sand, gravel and clay covered the tuff and every new layer put more pressure onto the tuff layer. This procedure repeats a couple of times and generates several layers of airtight covered tuff. Over millions of years under pressure the tuff layers became soft coal which today can be found at depths of 50 to 500 meters.
In 1819 on the manor of baron of Goltstein in Lucherberg near Inden soft coal was found. This discovery massively changed the development of the area. Subsequently the industrial diggin of the soft coal started in the Goltstein mine. In 1869 the mine was closed. During the construction of the railroad track from Aachen to Cologne (in the years 1839 to 1841) many other soft coal layer were found. Due to the invention of the "iron digger" (which is a bagger with rakers) and its successful use in a mine near cologne a new era had begun.
In 1978 the largest Forest of the Julicher Börde, the "Hambacher Forst", was stubbed, the villages Lich-Steinstraß and Etzweiler were resettled and the digging in the open-cast mine Hambach began.
Today with an operation area of 3.389ha Hambach is the largest open-cast mine in Germany. Due to the deepness of the soft-coal layers in this area, Hambach is also the deepest open-cast mine in Germany. The deepest point of the mine ist about 293 meters below sea level comparing to an altitute of 106 meters at the south-east border of the mine.
The nearby 'Sophienhöhe' is the largest artificial hill worldwide. It was mainly created by the leavings of the mine and covers an area of about 13 square kilometers. With its altitude of 290 meters above sea level, the maximum elevation between the hill and the mine is 583 meters.
This Earthcache guides you to the official viewpoint of the mine near Elsdorf. There is an offical parking area nearby the viewpoint.
To successfully log this earthcache you have to visit this viewpoint, (and optionally take a picture of you standing in front of the mine and upload it with your log). After enjoying the really fantastic view you might find the answers to the following questions (The information boards are missing at present, but it should not be to hard to find the answers to questions 1 - 3 in the www). Please send us an email with the answers. Feel free to log this cache as a found after you send the answers to us, we will just contact you if something is wrong.
- How many diggers (Schaufelradbagger) and stackers (Absetzer) are working in the mine?
- How much percent of the german electricity is generated by power plants in the rhine area?
- How much soft coal (in tons) is digged from this mine each year?
- Looking into the mine you get an impression of how the soil is composed in this area and you should identify the soft coal layer(s). But how many coal layers can you see and at which deepth are they located?