How German cities are turning former coal mines into parks [photos] – by Marielle Segarra ( – July 7, 2015)

I’m spending a few weeks in Germany as part of a German/American journalist exchange program through the RIAS Berlin Kommission and the Radio Television Digital News Foundation. During the trip, I’m sending back lessons on urban planning and revitalization from German cities. Today’s topic: how cities in the Ruhr region are embracing their heritage by repurposing industrial sites.

When I think of quintessentially European cities, I imagine cobblestone streets, historic brick buildings, magnificent cathedrals, sidewalk cafes, and chocolatiers on every corner. I think of cities with history stretching back hundreds, and even thousands of years. Paris. Or Brussels. Or Rome, or Prague, or Vienna, or Hamburg…

But of course, Europe has all kinds of different cities, each with their own unique aesthetic and history.

Last week, I visited several cities in Germany that don’t fit the mold. What’s most prominent about them isn’t ancient history, but rather, their more recent, industrial heritage.

The Ruhr region of Germany is a sprawling metropolitan area, with 5.2 million people and 53 cities with boundaries that blur together. For decades, the region was dotted with thousands of coal mines, steel mills, and other industry.

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[Mine workers as slaves] Japan’s UNESCO heritage bid draws ire over past labour abuse – by Elaine Kurtenach (Associated Press/Metro News – June 30, 2015)

GUNKANJIMA, Japan – Of countless ghostly abandoned factories and mines in Japan, this fortress island near Nagasaki is among the most notorious. It is also a source of national pride.

Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island, is one of 23 old industrial facilities seeking UNESCO’s recognition as world heritage “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” meant to illustrate Japan’s rapid transformation from a feudal farming society into an industrial power at the end of the 19th century.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is expected to approve the proposal during a meeting being held in Bonn, Germany, through July 9 after Japan and South Korea informally agreed on a promise to acknowledge, though it is unclear how, that Koreans were among the people who toiled at Gunkanjima and some other sites. The compromise also includes an agreement by Japan to support South Korean proposals for some world heritage site listings.

Japan’s bid for UNESCO recognition is confined to the 1868-1912 era of the Meiji Emperor, who presided over the country’s rush to industrialize and catch up with Western colonial powers. It excludes the years that followed, when Japan annexed Korea and eventually invaded China and other parts of Asia before and during World War II.

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Heroic and tragic truth behind Poldark: Cornishmen shaped mining in Britain and pushed boundaries the world over – by Boyd Tonkin (The Indepnedent – April 10, 2015)

If you look beyond the bodice-ripping and family feuds, the BBC’s ‘Poldark’ delves into a fascinating period of Cornwall’s mining past. Boyd Tonkin looks at the real quarrying dynasties in a region that was once at the cutting edge of capitalism

Anyone who watches Poldark for a treatise on Cornish industrial history is clearly barking up the wrong tree – or, maybe, peering down the wrong shaft. The second BBC adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels has already secured a sweating, straining place in prime-time costume-drama folklore that promises to eclipse even the spiky courtship of Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice – almost 20 years ago.

Ask fans to divert their gaze from the unfastened gowns and naked torsos to those fascinating examples of Cornish beam engines in the background and you risk sounding like the country-pursuits writer who reviewed Lady Chatterley’s Lover for Field and Stream magazine.

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Mining downturn opens door for ‘neglected’ Pilbara tourism industry – by Alexia Attwood (ABC North West WA – June 8, 2015)

The downturn in the Pilbara’s all dominating iron ore industry has opened a window of opportunity for the region’s tourism potential.

For half a century the Pilbara’s spectacular desert ranges and rugged coastline have been overshadowed by the multi-billion-dollar iron ore industry.

But the drop in iron ore price has prompted business and industry leaders to look for ways of diversifying the Pilbara’s economy to make it less reliant on the mining sector, and the formerly neglected tourism industry has been touted as the way forward.

“For our part of the Pilbara, tourism has been neglected for the last decade,” Bazz Harris from the Karratha Visitor Centre said. But the iron ore downturn has already had a positive impact on the affordability of holidaying in the Pilbara, Mr Harris said.

“The good thing is when people call us and say, ‘Hey, can I actually come to Karratha or is it going to cost me an arm and a leg?’, we can actually get people one night’s accommodation for 110 bucks, which is very normal,” he said.

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Worth its salt: Poland’s Wieliczka Mine is no substitute for Doritos, but it is pretty cool – by Ron Csillag (National Post – June 1, 2015)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

There aren’t many tourist attractions where you are encouraged to lick the walls. But a salt mine isn’t your typical visitor stop.

If you’re like me and are nearly overcome by a salt craving each afternoon that can only be satisfied with a Costco-sized bag of Doritos, the offer to sample the structure is tempting — until you consider that the reason the dark grey rock salt walls have been polished to a high gloss is decades of touching and rubbing.

Breathing deeply, on the other hand, can only be beneficial. A couple of hours in the air here are supposed to equal a week at the seaside.

And next time you make a dreary crack after lunch about having “to get back to the salt mines,” keep in mind what actual miners accomplished at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, 20 minutes outside the Polish city of Krakow, a thoroughly charming place that went unscathed in the Second World War and today blends Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture with swank shops, an unmistakably Roman Catholic sensibility and some really great food.

The world’s only salt mine designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wieliczka draws upward of one million tourists a year, and for good reason. Poland’s history is not exactly light fare, so this place is a welcome respite (despite being a place where, you know, workers toiled in dank, brutal conditions).

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Finding Minnesota: The ‘Grand Canyon Of The North’ – by Mike Binkley (CBS Minnesota – May 31, 2015)

HIBBING, Minn. (WCCO) – This year, thousands will take a side trip to a giant hole in the ground in northern Minnesota that locals like to call “the Grand Canyon of the North.”

It’s not a natural wonder. It’s a panoramic collection of cliffs, ridges and valleys that have all been carved up by humans. The Hull Rust Mahoning Mine on the edge of Hibbing is the second largest open pit iron ore mine in the world.

Beauty was not the main objective when miners first arrived there in the 1890s, but after 120 years of blasting, digging and hauling, beauty is what many visitors see. Anne Varda, whose family includes three generations of miners, is now president of the adjacent tourist center.

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Dig Into New Jersey’s Mining History at Sterling Hill – by Brian Glaser (May 18, 2015)

New Jersey is famously The Garden State, but as far back as its Colonial days it also was a major North American mining center. The Sterling Hill Mining Museum, about an hour north of Essex County, lets families to dig into this important part of the state’s history.

Located in Ogdensburg, Sterling Hill is the site of a zinc mine that is one of the oldest in the U.S., operating from the early 1700’s until it closed in 1986. It was converted into a museum in 1990, and the good news is that it’s not just an abandoned hole in the ground you can walk through—the Sterling Hill folks converted the mine into a real museum and offer an experience that’s fun and educational.

Most days at 1pm, Sterling Hill offers a guided tour that’s 2-plus hours long and includes an exhibit of vintage mining equipment equipment and minerals from around the world, followed by a walk inside the actual mine—where it’s always a cool and comfy 56 degrees! (Group tours can be booked, too.)

The entrance to the mine immerses you in the sights, sounds and overall feel of NJ’s mining days, and the museum has historical equipment and mannequin miners set up in key points throughout the tunnels.

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West Virginia Mine Wars Museum aims to tell overlooked coalfields history – by Marcus Constantino (Charleston Daily Mail – April 28, 2015)

Local volunteers and historians are opening a museum in Matewan dedicated to telling the untold and often-overlooked stories of coal miners’ long and bloody fight for labor rights.

The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is to open Saturday, May 16, with a grand opening celebration at 1 p.m. Charles “Chuck” Keeney, a history teacher in Logan and member of the museum’s board of directors, said the museum is a collection of artifacts and stories from the early 20th century labor uprising that has mostly been passed down informally from generation to generation.

“There’s not a whole lot of emphasis on the history of what coal miners did and the struggles they went through and the tumultuous time,” Keeney said. “The Battle of Matewan has all the elements of a classic Western shootout, yet while something like the Gunfight at O.K. Corral has become a part of American lore, Matewan has languished in obscurity for a number of generations. We’re promoting this regional history that has been overlooked.”

The May 19, 1920, Battle of Matewan, also known as the “Matewan Massacre,” broke out in front of the Chambers Hardware building — the current-day home of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum at 336 Mate Street.

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Cornish Mining World Heritage: Our Mining Culture Shaped Your World! (Mining Tourism)

The Cornish Route of Industrial Heritage

The Cornish Route of Industrial Heritage features one of the earliest industrial areas in Europe and one of the most influential in terms of developing industrial expertise and mining technology. The area is also a noteworthy example of the growth of industrial society.

Cornwalis a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, located at the extreme south west of the UK and Europe. The area has a very individual geology in which the resources of tin, copper and china clay are to be found. These rich and abundant natural resources were the reason for rapid industrial development during the Industrial Revolution.

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Murdochville looks to tourism to shake ghosts of mining past – by Marika Wheeler (CBC News Montreal – March 29, 2015)

Former copper town banking on outdoor recreation to secure its future

Like many small communities that once dotted Quebec’s landscape, Murdochville was born a company town, built on the back of a mining boom.

Rich in copper ore, the mine was in operation for more than 50 years, an exceptionally long run compared to the average life span. But when the mining company pulled out more than a dozen years ago, the town’s economy crashed.

Now many believe the community’s future lies in another natural resource: the nature that surrounds the Gaspé Peninsula town.The mono-industry community has at least once been on the brink of becoming a ghost town.

It was served blow after blow when the open pit mine shut down, then the underground mine, and finally the smelter in 2002. In two referendums, a majority of unionized workers, then residents, voted to shut down the town. Those results scarred the towns history.

When Audrey Lévesque-Lecours, a high school human sciences teacher who has been living in Murdochville for five years, visits her family in Baie Comeau, people are surprised to learn the town still exists.

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Mining for tourists? A dubious economic savior in Appalachia – (Chattanooga Times Free Press – March 29, 2015)

Associated Press – SECO, Ky. (AP) – Mines built this company town. Could vines – the wine grapes growing on a former strip mine in the hills above – help to draw visitors here?

Jack and Sandra Looney sure hope so. Their Highland Winery – housed in the lovingly restored, mustard-yellow “company store” – pays tribute to coal-mining’s history here, as do their signature wines: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

“The Coal Miner’s Blood sells more than any of them,” Jack Looney says of the sweet red. He and his wife have converted the store’s second and third floors into a bed and breakfast. They’ve also bought and restored a couple dozen of the old coal company houses as rentals, and rooms fill up during their annual spring Miner’s Memorial Festival.

Seco, like so many Central Appalachian communities, owes its existence to coal – its very name an acronym for South East Coal Company. But as mining wanes, officials across the region are looking for something to replace the traditional jobs and revenues.

In some of the poorest, most remote counties, about the only alternative people can come up with is tourism – eco-, adventure, or, as with the Looneys, historical and cultural.

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Minnesota’s Soudan mine now produces awe instead of ore – by Ann Wessel (St. Cloud Times – September 20, 2014)

The mine that once produced the most pure iron ore in the U.S. closed more than 50 years ago. Soudan Underground Mine State Park interpreter James Juip is among those who make a living there today.

SOUDAN – James Juip makes his living underground. The 2006 Cathedral High School grad wears a hard hat, headlamp, bib overalls and flannel shirt when he descends the half-mile into Soudan Underground Mine. He dresses the part. He relays the history. He’s even had late-night home visits from former mine workers who want to tell him their stories.

But his experience is far different from that of the miners who chipped a living out of the rich veins of iron ore under the surface. He walks a well-lit path, for one thing.

Back in the day when candles provided the only illumination underground and miners had to pay for those candles, they conserved their resources and walked the three-quarters of a mile in the dark. About 20 languages were spoken. Miners sang on the way to work to keep track of each other. At peak production in the 1890s, Soudan employed 2,000 people below ground and as many above. Soudan produced the most pure iron; before 1950, all steel produced in the U.S. contained some Soudan ore.

“For a long time, you could not make high-grade steel produced in this country without using ore from Soudan,” Juip said after a day of tours.

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When coal was king: Drumheller’s Atlas coal mine takes visitors back in time – by Karan Smith (Canadian Geolgraphic Travel – Summer 2014)

TWO. ONE.” CLICK. We all turn off our headlamps. And it’s dark in here. Really dark. I reach for my daughter’s hand. Above our heads is 12 metres of earth; ahead of us, the mouth of the mine. We’re walking up the angled ramp of the underground gantry in the Atlas coal mine. Alongside us is the wide rubberized canvas belt that once carried the chunks of coal shovelled out of the mine, in East Coulee, Alta., to homes across Canada.

As we click our lights back on, our guide, Chelsea Saltys, an area local and engineering student, tells the story of a young miner named Eric Houghton, who slipped one rainy day on the wet links between the coal cars. He fell underneath the moving train and was severely hurt: broken hip and leg, punctured lung, crushed ribs. After a shot of morphine and a cigarette, he made it to the hospital, then spent months in traction. When he got out of the hospital, he got a job at the Banff Springs Hotel as a night watchman. Physiotherapy was climbing the stairs at the grand resort. But the black gold called him back and he returned for his old job. “It goes to show you what these men were made of,” says Saltys.

THERE’S A KIND OF DESOLATE BEAUTY that comes with abandoned towns. Driving along the hoodoo-lined highway to the Atlas coal mine, the eight-storey wooden tipple, once used to load coal into railway cars, stands out as a landmark. It’s the last wooden tipple in Canada and a national historic site.

(You might have seen it on last summer’s Amazing Race Canada, where contestants competed to load a two-tonne coal car.) On the site, rusting trucks from the 1940s are permanently parked. A narrow gauge track runs in front, evidence of the railway’s role here.

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Suites offer comfort for weary business travellers [Cobalt mining tourism] – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – July 29, 2014)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

To say it was impulse for Nicole Guertin to purchase a century-old mansion while on a brief 2003 visit to Haileybury is a gross understatement.

But Guertin, who, along with her partner, Jocelyn Blais, is the proprietor of Presidents’ Suites and Prospector’s House guest homes, was so struck by the beauty and history of Temiskaming, she followed through on her instinct.

“A lot of people in the North — Timmins, Kapuskasing — we come down and we’re always in a hurry; we never come through Haileybury, so we don’t know what’s here,” said Guertin, who hails from Kapuskasing. “It was really the first time I came here, and I was surprised how beautiful it was.”

The house isn’t like any other. The rambling mansion overlooking Lake Temiskaming along Millionaires’ Row was built in 1906 by Arthur Ferland, a mining bigwig who struck it rich during the Cobalt silver-mining boom. His wealth was reinvested into the original Timmins gold discovery and helped build the industry there.

Despite the home’s grandeur, it required a lot of work to bring it up to a high standard, and when zoning complications thwarted Guertin’s original plan for a B&B, she opted for suites instead, completely gutting the home and rebuilding it one room at a time.

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Chile creates Mining Tourist Route – by Carolina Contreras ( – April 16, 2014)

In 2015, tourists can see mining developments, learn copper extraction and refining and marvel at the size of the machinery used in large-scale mining.

ANTOFAGASTA, Chile – Beaches, mountains, desert and the Patagonia are some of Chile’s biggest tourist attractions. But in 2015, the country will add a new one: mines in Chile’s northern region, such as Chuquicamata – the largest surface mine in the world that’s in the Antofagasta region – 1,585 kilometers north of the nation’s capital of Santiago.

The excavation area, which is 4.5 kilometers long, 3.5 kilometers wide and 1.1 kilometers deep, is one of Chile’s main mines.

The South American country is the world’s largest copper exporter, with 5.77 million metric tons of annual production and exports worth US$43.1 billion in 2013, according to the Mining Council, which represents the country’s largest mining companies.

Beginning in 2015, Chuquicamata, along with 23 other mines, will be open to tourists as the main attraction on the Mining Tourism Route, created by the Antofagasta Regional Branch of the National Tourism Service (Sernatur) in collaboration with mining companies and the Regional Ministerial Secretariat for Mining.

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