MEETING THE TECHNICAL, ECOLOGICAL, AND SOCIAL CHALLENGES IN THE DECOMMISSIONING OF POTASH MINES IN EASTERN GERMANY

World Mining Congress
With annual production of almost 3.5 million metric tonnes of K20, former East Germany (GDR) was the world’s third-largest producer of potash, ranking behind only the Soviet Union and Canada. More than 80 % of production was intended for export to earn urgently needed hard currency. For this reason, beginning in the 1970s, East Germany began to mine unprofitable hard-salt sources and carnallitite fields, which are geomechanically problematic. In the course of restructuring from a centrally planned to a market economy after German reunification, only two of the nine existing potash mines were classified as economically viable for privatization. All six potash mines in the South Harz Region were closed between 1991 and 1993. The orderly safekeeping of these potash and other decommissioned ore mines and the rededication of mining areas were assigned in 1992 to a German state-owned company GVV founded especially for this purpose. Elaboration in the present documentation covers the local necessity of the type and extent of filling and safeguarding measures. As a result of the remedial measures taken, it was possible to prevent the collapse of cavities and damage to surface facilities. This documentation describes the safeguarding successes to date, with appreciable reduction and stabilization of surface settlement and with significant lessening of seismic events. Also presented are concepts updated to the state of the art for safeguarding of numerous potash mining shafts for long-term effectiveness in separation of the workings and watercourse levels in the cap rock. In the course of 100 years of production, six mining dumps resulted with a total volume of approximately 170 million m3. They consist of up to 95 % of water-soluble salts. Every year, precipitation dissolves up to 500,000 tonnes of this salt, which enters as a highly concentrated solution into watercourses and ground water. Explanation follows of measures for minimization of environmental pollution by covering of dumps and controlled drainage of alkaline solutions from the dumps. Finally, presentation is made of the results of the successful work until now by GVV for reuse of decommissioned mining sites with settlement of new companies for creation of additional jobs and for revitalization of the monostructured South Harz Potash Mining Region.
Keywords: mining; Mine; Mines; Salt; Salts; Potash Mine; Potash mines; potash;
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