Hambach opencast mine

In the heart of the Rhenish lignite-mining area

The Hambach opencast mine is located between Jülich in Düren county and Elsdorf (Erft county) in the heart of the Rhenish lignite-mining area. It was started in 1978 close to Niederzier's Hambach district and is currently some 370m deep. The mining field measures 85 sq km and contains 2.5 billion tons of lignite at a depth of up to 450m.

More about Hambach opencast mine

Biggest excavators in the world deployed

In the Hambach pit the world's biggest excavators are at work: they are 220m long, 96m high and weigh 13,500 tons. Every day, they can extract 240,000 tons of coal or cubic metres of overburden – enough to fill up a football stadium 30m high.

Most of the overburden – last year about 250 million m³ – is used to backfill the already depleted side of the Hambach opencast mine. The mined lignite reaches its takers – the power plants and upgrading operations at and in the Ville area to the east of the mine – on the 22-km-long Hambach railway, a double-track company-owned rail line. The Hambach opencast mine extracts some 40 million tons of lignite a year.

Birth of a popular tourist destination

A landmark of the opencast mine visible from afar is the Sophienhöhe heights, a man-made, wooded hill which towers 200m above the fertile plain. It contains some of the opencast mine's boxcut masses and is now a popular tourist destination in the region.

Facts & Figures


Hambach opencast mine (2017)
Size of the approved mining fieldha8,500
Operating surfacehaap. 4,380
Coal contentMio. tap. 1,350
Overburden-to-coal ratio6.3 : 1
Annual overburden removalmill. m³ap. 220 - 250 
Annual coal extractionmill. t40


Bucket wheel excavators
Number of units215
Capacity ( m³ / day )110,000200,000240,000


Number of units16
Capacity ( m³ / day )150,000240,000


Conveyor belts
Total lengthkm115


Total surfacehaap. 5,940
Rehabilitationhaap. 1,560
of which farmlandhaap. 15
of which foresthaap. 1,545


Visitor Service HotlineHuyssenallee 2D-45128 EssenT+49(0)800/8833830 *
E-mail to Visitor Service of RWE Power
* freephone