Deep, deep in the Ruhr is the coal mine of Zeche Hugo. To be precise, the colliery is located in Buer, a town close to the industrial city of Gelsenkirchen. Essen and Duisburg lie to the west, Bochum and Dortmund to the east. For miles and miles, all around, there are coal mines and steel works.
Zeche Hugo, built in 1870 and closed in 1997, was just one coal mine among hundreds in the Ruhr. At its peak, it employed 5000 people, bringing people and investment into the area. Coal mining, though, has all but finished in the Ruhr, and the eight and a half million people that live here are now amongst the poorest in Germany.
Zeche Hugo takes its name from the Essen merchant, Hugo Honigmann, who founded the coal mining company Hugo in the early 1870's. By the early 1880's, though, the coal mine was sold on to the large conglomerate AG. It was to remain under ownership of AG for over 100 years, before eventually closing down.
On average, 3.5 million tonnes of coal per year was mined at Zeche Hugo, and most of it was fed to the near by coal-fired power station of Scholven (shown in some of the pictures). The power station is still in operation today, although the old mine of Zeche Hugo no longer provides the coal.
The workers at the coal mine, rather than store their clothes and personal belongings in lockers, instead each had their own individual cage. These cages on a chain from the roof, and once filled were hoisted upwards. This large room of cages has becoming something of a must-see for urban explorers, who still to this day flock to Zeche Hugo, or Zeche H as it is referenced within the community.