The Last Mine Rescue

Arne Piepke


Mining has had an enormous impact on the Ruhr region in Germany. With the onset of industrialization, more and more mines were built, people migrated to the Ruhr area and the region became Germany's most important industrial location. But working conditions were tough, with serious accidents occurring in the mines.

Due to the poor safety situation, mine rescue teams were founded at the beginning of the 20th century. Their task was to rescue miners, to fight fires and to secure valuable objects. They quickly became the mine's elite force.

Even though the long history of coal in the Ruhr region came to an end in 2018, one last mine rescue still trains in Herne today. The 121 members must pass five physically demanding exercises each year to be part of the mine rescue. The long tradition behind the mine rescue service and the sense of community within the force are still a source of identity for many members today.

Only when the last mine has been finally cleared will the mine rescue no longer be needed.

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  • During training, the men often have to crawl through narrow tubes.

  • To simulate conditions in the mines, a temperature of up to 40 degrees is set in some rooms.

  • Jörg Piwek, one of the first reservists in the mine rescue team, has been a member since 1992. His main motivation to join the mine rescue was to save the lives of other comrades.

  • The backpacks contain breathing apparatus and coolers, and weigh around 20kg.

  • Various fires can be simulated on the grounds of the old Pluto colliery. The mine rescue team practices how to extinguish the various fires.

  • Four mine rescue team members shortly before their exercise. They have to find their way around a dark, smoke-filled room and rescue a dummy.

  • The disused mine in Recklinghausen also serves as a training ground.

  • The troops of four to five men practice recovering comrades. This is simulated with a dummy.

  • Carolin Kampann is one of three women in the mine rescue. Since 2020, people who have never worked in a colliery have also been allowed to join . She has always been enthusiastic about the mine rescue and joint when it was possible.

  • The exercises are enormously physically demanding. That's why most workouts last no longer than two hours.

  • In the past, fatal fires often occurred in the shafts. Various fires, such as a gas fire, can be simulated on the training ground.

  • Sascha Stopp has been with the mine rescue team since 2012. For him, this has always been considered the elite of the mines. The ambition, camaraderie and pride were motivation for him. He is the main equipment keeper and leads the squad leaders in the exercises.

  • A dummy figure, which is used in various training

  • During the exercise, the mine rescue team members are in constant communication with the operation site. From here, the exercise is monitored and orders are given.

  • Four mine rescue members after their training at the old Pluto colliery site in Wanne-Eickel.