Black coal, miners, work below ground – this is a thing of the past. Having said farewell to its coal industry, this region is looking to transform itself. And is working on creating a future that does not forget its past. Old collieries and decommissioned blast furnaces are being made fit for the modern world so they can be used as museums and event locations, cultural centres and restaurants or for offices and start-ups. Just one example here is the Zeche Zollverein in Essen: previously one of the world’s highest performing black coal collieries, it now attracts around 1.5 million visitors a year.
The Ruhr region is undergoing a transformation. Coal, coke and steel are being replaced by services and tourism. XERVON is helping to move this structural change forward by renovating and restoring industrial sites – preserving our industrial monuments so they can be used for new tasks.
However, if yesterday is to be turned into tomorrow, then it is essential to repair and protect the buildings that are to be preserved for the future. Safeguarding these structures from erosion and corrosion plays a major role here. Which is why XERVON Oberflächentechnik, the company’s surface technology specialists, recently travelled to the Zeche Zollverein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the locations being celebrated by the ‘Bauhaus Year’. Its job here is to apply a modern coating system to a historical bridge conveyor that is attached to a bunker, which had previously been used for storing backfill material. To be able to ensure that this preservation work is performed correctly, XERVON’s scaffolding experts must first erect an enclosed, fully dustproof scaffold structure around the bridge conveyor. It is doing this gradually, section for section, as the visitors must not only be kept safe while the renovation work is being carried out, they should also be able to see as much of the colliery’s fascinating and unique architecture as possible.
In many cases, renovating industrial monuments involves a completely different set of rules. It is well worth the effort, though, as the preserved sites bear witness to a town’s industrial past as it moves forward into the future.
Another old colliery, Zeche Sophia-Jacoba 3, is situated in Hückelhoven, approx. 100 kilometres south west of Essen. Just as was the case with the Zollverein, this colliery was planned by the architect Fritz Schupp, who transferred the practical design of the Bauhaus movement to industrial buildings. XERVON Oberflächentechnik is also carrying out extensive work at this site (which now offers guided tours around the mine) to protect the headgear against corrosion and renovate the timber-framed machine building. A project that will need a good twelve months to complete. The building site has been set up for work in a contaminated area. This is not a seldom occurrence when working on the surfaces of historical monuments as the old eroded coating must first be removed before the new corrosion protection layer can be applied. These old coats, which may be decades or even centuries old, often contain substances that – according to today’s standards – are considered to be hazardous.
The Sophia-Jacoba headgear is an impressive 48 metres high. XERVON Oberflächentechnik is using wet and dry blasting technology and applying three layers of coating to make sure this distinctive steel structure is fit for the future
XERVON Oberflächentechnik can also be found working at other industrial heritage sites. For example at the Gasometer in Dortmund, a part of the Phoenix-West decommissioned blast furnace plant, which has today been transformed into a business and recreational area. The 120,000 m³ gasometer is one of the stops along the Route of Industrial Heritage. Over the last few months, the platforms around the outside of the tank have been jet blasted, repaired and recoated.
It takes time to achieve structural change in a region as large as that of the Ruhr. Much has already been successfully wrapped up but there is still a lot to be done. Helping making these projects a success is something that is very important to XERVON Oberflächentechnik. At the end of the day, its own roots are firmly planted in this region. Prosper-Haniel, the very last black coal mine to be closed down in Germany at the end of 2018, is just a few metres from its head office in Bottrop. It is not possible to have more local expertise or be closer than they are.