The mining of coal in the Saar region has been documented since the time of Celtic settlement. Regulated mining began when Wilhelm Heinrich von Nassau-Saarbrücken bought all the pits in 1750 and banned private mining.
In the first coalition war, the left bank of the Rhine was conquered by French troops and in 1798 the area around the Saar was incorporated into the French administration as the Département de la Sarre. After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, most of the Saar region was assigned to the Prussian Rhine Province in 1822 (map see next page: Landesarchiv Saarbrücken, inventory K Hellwig, no. 0842, author V. A. Malte-Brun) and economic growth began. In 1913, production was about 14 million tons and the workforce was 56,903 miners.
In 1920, the Saar mines became French state property, as the Treaty of Versailles had given them to France to replace the mines in northern France that had been destroyed in World War I.
After the referendum of 1935, the Saar returned to Germany, which was now under National Socialist government. The Saargruben were bought from the French state and later took the form of a public limited company (Saargruben AG), the sole shareholder of which was the German Reich.
After the Second World War, control of the mines passed to the "Mission Française des Mines de la Sarre". The initial aim was to replace the war damage and to achieve the highest possible funding.
Picture: Stamp from 1948 at 9 francs.
In 1954 the company Saarbergwerke AG was founded. After the reorganization of the Saarland, the Federal Republic of Germany was the main shareholder with 74% of the shares from 1957, the remaining shares were held by the state.
In the 1960s the number of pits was reduced from 18 to six; during the coal crisis, annual production fell from 17 to 10 million tons.
In 2006, Ensdorf was still a mine in operation; with around 4000 employees, 3.7 million tons of coal were mined per year.
On February 23, 2008, the strongest mining-related rock tremor occurred in Saarland. The quake measured 4.5 on the Richter scale. The Saarland state government then ordered a temporary, unlimited mining ban on the same day.
On June 30, 2012, hard coal mining in Saarland was discontinued. On the next page you can watch an excerpt from the Saarland Radio documentary "10 years of mining in Saarland".
In 2018, the Bundestag decided to finally stop coal mining.
Luisenthal mine accident
The coal mine in the Luisenthal district of Völklingen existed since the beginning of the 19th century. During the early shift on February 7, 1962, 664 miners worked in Alsbachfeld. At around 7:45 a.m., there was an explosion at a depth of more than 600 meters, which among other things lifted the manhole cover of the Alsbach shaft into the air. He wedged himself in the head frame. 299 miners died in the blast or shortly after.
Near the former mine there is a memorial with a statue of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. Behind the statue is a wall of 299 frame-like stones; each of the stones has a hole in which commemorative candles can be placed.
The miners always had to be aware of the dangers of their workplace. Saint Barbara is their patron saint. She is the "patron of a good death" among the 14 Holy Helpers of the Catholic Church. Despite the rejection of the veneration of the saint, St. Barbara has also retained its position in Protestant areas. December 4th is Barbara Day.
Working together in mining brings with it special features. The hard physical work and its dangers made sure that colleagues - buddies, comrades - looked out for each other. On the next page, listen to the Steigerlied, which is part of the intangible cultural heritage.