I had the Visitor Mine F60 on my destinations-wishlist for a little while. Now we finally got to go on an excursion to the brown coal opencast mining area in Lusatia.
What does F60 stand for?
There used to be 5 brown coal opencast mining areas in Lusatia: Nochten, Welzow-Süd, Jänschwalde, Reichwalde and Klettwitz-Nord. In all of them, the same type of conveyor belt bridges made by VEB TAKRAF Lauchhammer was used. Four of them are still in use today.
Those conveyor bridges are the largest movable machines in the world. They are used to transport the mining waste material from above the coal bed. The top removal rate of them is 60 meters which is why this type of belt was named F60.
The F60 conveyor in Klettwith-Nord is not in use anymore today and it can be viewed by visitors.
Tours at the Visitor Mine F60
We arrive at the large, free car park of the Visitor Mine F60 in the late afternoon. After we were handed our tickets we make our way to the conveyor.
Then I see it. This “horizontal Eiffel Tower of Lusatia” takes my breath away. It is 502 meters long and up to 80 meters high. I didn’t imagine that it would be such a colossus of steel. I have seen quite a few machines for coal mining already and they were big – but the size of this conveyor bridge surpasses them all!
Ticket still in hand I enter the visitor centre. The German phrase “Glück auf” (German miner’s greeting) is painted on the side of the building. We will hear this phrase a few more times throughout the day as this is commonly used as a greeting here.
In the visitor centre, guests are assigned to free spots in the daily tours. In groups of not more than 20 people, visitors are taken on a 90-minute tour of the conveyor bridge. Depending on how busy the day is tours are timed in a way that allows a safe distance between the different groups. There are never more than 8 groups on the conveyor at the same time. It is only logical that there are quite a few important rules to follow when visiting such a machine. Sturdy shoes and a helmet are a must. If it is too windy, snowy or foggy there might not be any tours during that time.
We didn’t have to wait long and were assigned to the next group in line to begin their tour. We were all handed our helmets and then the guide began to share some information about the history of the Visitor Mine F60.
History of the Visitor Mine
Brown coal mining has been present in Lusatia for over 150 years. Many villages were destroyed by the mining activities over time and the environment has changed, too. The town Bergheide that used to be nearby, for example, is only one of the victims of the mining.
The production of normed conveyor bridges in the GDR began in 1958. The first F60 conveyor belt was taken into service in 1972. In March 1991 the mining area Klettwith-Nord, the area the Visitor Mine F60 is in, starts using an F60.
After only 13 months in service, the operation is shut down due to economical reasons. The open cast mines are closed and it is planned to destroy them in controlled explosions. Luckily some vestrypeople had the idea to use the area commercially instead. The municipality became the official owner of the complex in 1998.
The old mine shafts were flooded in 2001; the creation of Lake Bergheide. The plan is to create a local recreational area around the lake over the next years. The waste material transportation facilities were modified so that visitors can walk them for a length of 1.3 km. These days many visitors find their way to Lusatia and are mighty impressed by the enormous steel construction.
On the F60
After the little input about the history of the mine, we begin our tour. We pass huge excavator chassis and I already feel pretty small next to them. How small will I feel once we’re all the way up the F60?
We follow the steel stairway with its yellow railings higher and higher. The steps are narrow but thankfully you cannot see through them. If those had been steel grids I wouldn’t have gone up.
Once we came up the side of one of the side chassis parts we cross over the conveyor bridge. We are still climbing and the view of the surrounding landscape is amazing.
Our guide stops regularly to explain technical details. I found all this very interesting but decided not to repeat it here. It is much more fascinating in person when one can actually see the rollers and conveyor belts in their full size.
We climb until we reach about 75 meters. It is quite windy up here so one best holds on tightly to any belongings. What gets dropped from up here will either break or disappear.
For a moment we linger at the very top to soak in the view but then we are swiftly guided back down to where we started.
We were really impressed by the tour of the Viewing Mine F60. I have never seen a machine as big as this.
On one hand, I would have liked to witness all of this in action. How vast amounts of cubic meters of dirt are being moved along these huge conveyors. On the other hand, I was shocked by how mining changes its surroundings. Villages are moved, habitats are destroyed, the environment changes into uninhabitable areas that have to be laboriously reconstructed afterwards. I don’t want to conclude whether that is a good or bad thing but it was definitely food for thought.
In any case, I highly recommend a visit, regardless of whether you’re an engineering enthusiast or not. The sight of the F60 conveyor bridge is impressive on its own.
Bergheider Straße 4
1st of November to 15th of March
Wednesday to Sunday: 11.00 – 16.00
16th of March to 31st of October
Monday to Sunday: 10.00 – 18.00
May to September
plus Saturdays until 20.00
Night tours upon reservation
Ticket Prices (2020)
Tour (full) adults: 12.50€
Visitor centre, exhibition and open air area only: 2.50€