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.
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.
|Hambach opencast mine (2017)|
|Size of the approved mining field||ha||8,500|
|Operating surface||ha||ap. 4,380|
|Coal content||Mio. t||ap. 1,350|
|Overburden-to-coal ratio||6.3 : 1|
|Annual overburden removal||mill. m³||ap. 220 - 250|
|Annual coal extraction||mill. t||40|
|Bucket wheel excavators|
|Number of units||2||1||5|
|Capacity ( m³ / day )||110,000||200,000||240,000|
|Number of units||1||6|
|Capacity ( m³ / day )||150,000||240,000|
|Total surface||ha||ap. 5,940|
|of which farmland||ha||ap. 15|
|of which forest||ha||ap. 1,545|